Belfast Telegraph

Policing lessons 'may aid Pakistan'

Lessons from the reorganisation of policing in Northern Ireland could influence efforts to reform law and order in Pakistan, a human rights expert has said.

The sprawling south Asian country normally hits the headlines for violence related to the war in neighbouring Afghanistan.

But it is also struggling against internal unrest, while policing legislation in some regions dates back to colonial powers introduced in the 1800s.

Aideen Gilmore, who has monitored the reform of the justice system in Northern Ireland, was asked to join experts in Islamabad for discussions on the theme of "Policing in Conflict", co-hosted by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, plus local human rights and lobby groups.

"The organisers were interested in hearing about the Northern Ireland experience of policing in conflict and particularly the process of police reform and how policing can be made more human rights compliant," she said.

"Generally, there was interest in how to move from a seemingly intractable conflict to one where the idea of change that is based on human rights and the rule of law becomes a possibility, and from there to the implementation of that change and the challenges that brings.

"Because of the problems with oversight and accountability of policing, participants were particularly interested in the models that we have developed and what is needed to make them effective, for example, the importance of a strong, effective and independent police complaints body."

The human rights expert came to prominence with the Belfast-based Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) and is on a career break as its deputy director to take part in a range of human rights consultancy work at home and abroad. The event in Pakistan also included human rights groups from the country, as well as retired police officers and government representatives.

"What was really striking was the level of internal conflict in the country - so much of the internationally reported news focuses on the international dimension, and particularly in relation to Afghanistan, problems in the border regions and relationships with the US, with little reporting on the impact on the people living in the country, where suicide bombings and attacks on the government and administration by the TTP (the Pakistan Taliban group) have claimed many lives and created a volatile and unsafe environment.

"So the challenge is protecting human rights and upholding the rule of law, and the role of the police in doing this, in a situation of conflict - something which Northern Ireland can offer much to learn from."

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