PBI expressions of concern about police violence, the militarization of policing, and extra-judicial killings by the police

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Photo: PBI-Kenya at the launch of the Missing Voices 2019 Annual Report on the State of Police Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Kenya.

Peace Brigades International has expressed concern about excessive use of force by state security forces, impunity despite alleged misconduct, the increasing militarization of policing and the attendant risk of human rights violations.

PBI has also recommended adherence to the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

PBI has noted that PBI-Kenya works closely with grassroots human rights defenders in the informal settlements of Nairobi who are working on cases of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances by the police.

In February 2020, one of those groups, Missing Voices, stated: “Last year, police killed 107 Kenyans according to Missing Voices verified data, most of those killed were young men mostly in informal settlements.”

In 2017, the Mathare Social Justice Centre study Who Is Next? A Participatory Action Research Report Against the Normalization of Extrajudicial Executions in Mathare reported that the police killed 803 young people in Mathare between 2013 and 2015.

PBI-Honduras has noted: “From November 19th, 2017 to January 21st, 2018, PBI-Honduras has registered 35 incidents suffered by human rights defenders, communicators and journalists. The majority of these attacks are related to the excessive use of force by state security forces during protests.”

Also in Honduras, PBI has noted: “In the early morning of October 22, 2015, a group of 20 police offices, 10 soldiers from the Infantry Battalion and nine civilians searched three homes. During the search, they attacked three women and threatened to kill them and struck and intimidated 3 of the 16 children present in the houses.”

PBI-Mexico has observed: “The organisations that PBI accompanies link this militarised [war on drugs] strategy with the human rights crisis the country is still in. In this framework, the proposal of a National Guard, by [President Lopez Obrador’s] government, is a serious concern to human rights organisations.”

PBI has also noted, “The families of the 43 students, the current students of the School of Ayotzinapa and the organisations that accompany them – among them the Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre whose members receive PBI accompaniment – have suffered intimidation and threats.”

The Inter-American Human Rights Commission found that the disappearance of the students involved the direct participation of the federal, state, and municipal police.

PBI-Colombia has drawn attention to the killing of Universidad del Valle student Jhonny Silva and 14-year-old Nicolas Neira by the ESMAD riot police.

On the day that the ESMAD was involved in the death of 18-year-old student Dylan Cruz, PBI-Colombia posted: “Social and peaceful protest is a human right, above all, disproportionate repressions cannot be justified against the civilian population, we ask for guarantees and respect for life.”

PBI-Guatemala has expressed its concern about the Risk of militarization in the PNC (National Civil Police), including an increasing level of cooperation between the PNC and the army, the possibility of former members of the military joining the police, and the purchase of a state-of-the-art surveillance system.

In September 1995, members of the PBI-North America Project travelled to Ipperwash, Ontario to offer their assistance in mediation and de-escalation following the Ontario Provincial Police shooting of Indigenous land defender Dudley George.

Additionally, PBI-Canada notes with concern the increasing militarization of policing in Canada and the disproportionate number of Black and Indigenous peoples killed by the RCMP and other police forces in this country.

University of Winnipeg Professor Kevin Walby and University of Manitoba law student Brendan Roziere have commented on this trend in their article: Rise of the SWAT team: Routine police work in Canada is now militarized.

They note: “Based on our research, we can see that militarization has been normalized within Canada’s largest police services. SWAT teams, once considered a last-resort option for police forces, are now being used in routine areas of policing.”

Furthermore, the PIVOT report 17 years of police violence in Canada found that “between 2000 and 2017, 699 police officers were involved in 460 fatal interactions with the public in Canada.” It highlights that Indigenous people make up 4.8 per cent of the population yet represent 15 per cent of total fatalities. Members of the Black community, which make up 3.4% of the population, represent 9% of the fatalities.

Peace Brigades International is committed to making space for peace and contributing to peaceful solutions to direct and structural violence.

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