Promoting Police Accountability

Prevention of xenophobic violence and related hate crimes in South Africa

Developing the capacity of the South African Police Service to prevent and respond to xenophobic violence and related hate crimes

The African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF), with support from the European Union, is undertaking a programme that seeks to strengthen efforts to prevent xenophobic violence and related hate crimes in South Africa.

Unfortunately, xenophobic incidents and related hate crimes have become a regular feature in post-apartheid South Africa. Despite significant progress having been made towards the promotion of the principle of non-discrimination, equality and dignity for all persons, the country has been experiencing recurring xenophobic violence and anti-immigrant sentiment against non-nationals and others on the basis of their national origin. These occurrences have a serious impact on the lives and livelihoods of groups that are especially vulnerable to human rights violations.

To address this, APCOF is leading an initiative to promote equitable and non- discriminatory services by the South African Police Service (SAPS), by enhancing its capacity to prevent and respond to racist and xenophobic violence and other hate crimes in the country. This goal is reinforced by the following specific objectives:

  • To promote the implementation of recommendations by the UN Human Rights Council that South Africa improves policing responses to violence against non-nationals and ensure systematic and effective investigations into allegations of racist and xenophobic violence and hate crimes;
  • To promote the effective implementation by SAPS of its international, regional and constitutional obligations to provide equitable and non-discriminatory services, particularly in relation to SAPS’ capacity to prevent and combat xenophobic attacks and hate crimes in the context of the forthcoming Prevention and combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech legislation;
  • To understand the roles of, and strengthen the relationship between, SAPS and Community Policing Forums (CPFs) – as part of awareness-raising efforts and early warning mechanisms to combat and prevent racist and xenophobic violence at local level;
  • To improve the accountability of SAPS in the prevention and combating of racist and xenophobic violence and hate crimes by strengthening the capacity of its oversight stakeholders; the Civilian Secretariat for Police (CSP) and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), to provide thematic oversight.

The project will be undertaken through four distinct and interdependent processes. The data-led and evidence-based programme is designed to address the identified needs and constraints of the SAPS and its oversight stakeholders, by providing the necessary technical support to improve service delivery by SAPS to non-nationals.

Police accountability in South Africa

With support from the Open Society Foundation for South Africa, APCOF is undertaking a range of activities aimed as strengthening police oversight and accountability in South Africa. This includes efforts to support civilian oversight institutions, civil society, and the South African Police Service (SAPS) to promote the agenda of a democratic and accountable police in South Africa.

The current project has four objectives

  • Supporting a rights-based approach to remand detention.
  • Developing a model use of force law.
  • Strengthening the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).
  • Promoting police and civil society dialogues on human rights, and policing that is compliant with continental and international obligations.
Supporting the establishment of independent police custody monitoring in South Africa

This project, supported by the European Union, promotes the implementation in South Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Guidelines on the Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa (the Luanda Guidelines) and ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) through the establishment of a system for the regular and independent monitoring of detention facilities under the management of the South African Police Service (SAPS). APCOF’s work to date on promoting implementation of the Luanda Guidelines in South Africa has revealed that despite relatively robust accountability architecture for policing in the country, one clear deficit is the absence of regular police cell monitoring. This project builds on APCOF’s existing strategy and program of work to promote the Luanda Guidelines across Africa, and builds on previous police accountability activities, such as the implementation of the Convention Against Torture.

The project will be undertaken in several phases. Phase one included the comprehensive modelling of a system for the regular and independent statutory and civilian monitoring of police cells. The draft study was presented and discussed in a multi stakeholder workshop and now informs piloting and rollout of a system.

Phases two and three involved the development of implementation tools including (a) monitoring tools (b) protocols on access and reporting; (c) training for independent visitors and (d) securing agreement with partners at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and SAPS on key capacity development needs for a successful system of independent police cell monitoring and pilots the action at identified police stations.

Phase four will assess the piloting of independent police station visits and provide the opportunity to fine tune methodology and training.

The fifth and final phase will be the roll out of independent system for police station monitoring. The project will aim to initiate the visitors schemes in 25 % of South African Police stations across the country.

Supporting the implementation of the Common Standards for Policing in East Africa

Through support from the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights (RWI), APCOF is working to support the implementation of the Common Standards for Policing in East Africa.

Initially the project will assess the level of implementation of, and compliance with, the Common Standards of Policing in the countries of the East African Community (EAC) through the development and testing of a monitoring template in collaboration with the EAC and the East African Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (EAPCCO). Based on the outcomes, a needs assessment will be undertaken to inform support in deepening the implementation of the Standards in the region.

Strengthening oversight and combating impunity in extra judicial killings in Kenya

APCOF, in partnership with the Danish Institute for Human Rights, the Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies (CHRIPS), the Independent Policing Oversight Authority of Kenya (IPOA), and the University of Pretoria is working to develop the capacity of IPOA by augmenting its current resources and procedures in alignment with the newly adopted Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Deaths. The project is supported by the European Union As part of the project, a weeklong induction programme was designed and presented in partnership with the University of Nairobi to the new IPOA board. This marks a first important step towards institutionalising project knowledge with institutions of higher learning in Kenya to build capacity in a sustainable way.

Model law for policing in Africa

APCOF, with support from the Open Society Foundation’s Human Rights Initiative (OSF-HRI) provides technical support to the Pan African Parliament (PAP) to develop a model law for policing in Africa. The draft law has passed committee stage and has been subject to consultation with parliamentary, policing and civil society stakeholders. The Committee for Justice and Human Rights will consider a second draft in 2019 before submitting the law for further consideration and adoption by the PAP Plenary.

Policing assemblies in Africa

APCOF provided technical support to the ACHPR in the development of The Guidelines for the Policing of Assemblies by Law Enforcement Officials in Africa, which were adopted by the ACHPR at its 21st Extraordinary Session in February 2017. Subsequently, APCOF has been providing technical support for the implementation of the Guidelines and, most recently, has been working with the Malawi Police Force to revise their Policy and Operational Guidelines on the Use of Force and Policing Assemblies to align them with the ACHPR Guidelines.

Developing a universal protocol for investigative interviews

In October 2016, the then United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Mendez, presented his thematic report to General Assembly calling for the development of a universal protocol on investigative interviewing and attendant legal safeguards. Around the same time, Human Rights Council Resolution 31/31 called for the implementation of safeguards to prevent torture during police custody and pre-trial detention.

APCOF serves as a member of both the steering committee and legal drafting sub-committee to develop an international protocol on the investigative interviewing of suspects and accused persons.

In addition, APCOF has provided technical support to the East African Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (EAPCCO) to develop the Model Standard Operating Procedure on Police Interviews.

Promoting the implementation of the ACHPR Guidelines on Arrest, Police Custody and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa

APCOF provided technical support to the ACHPR in the development of the Guidelines on Arrest, Conditions of Police Custody and Pre Trial Detention in Africa, which were adopted by the Commission in May 2014. APCOF continues to support the application of the Guidelines by offering technical support to AU member states. This support includes training and, in 2018 APCOF, trained members of the Tanzanian Police Force, Prison Service, and Immigration Service in Mwanza, as well as offering a train-the-trainer to the police component of the East Africa Standby Force in Nairobi, Kenya.

Covid-19 justice project

APCOF and Fair Trials, a UK-based partner, have been funded to lead a global coalition to expose, resist and roll back on the mission-creep, normalisation and legitimisation of extraordinary law enforcement powers introduced in the name of public health protection and COVID-19 prevention. Two country focus areas have been identified in Africa, South Africa and Nigeria, along with Mexico, Brazil, Hungry and Poland. APCOF leads the Africa-based work and is cooperating with the Cleen Foundation in Nigeria and the C19 People’s Coalition in South Africa.  The project supports:


  1. National efforts in target countries;
  2. Strengthening regional and international civil society collaboration to draw together global expertise, and identify common threats and good practices;
  3. Facilitating concerted and sustained advocacy at regional level, through the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) ordinary sessions;
  4. Developing a framework of agreed standards and guidelines to inform future emergency responses; and
  5. Informing the public narrative, and enhancing public’s knowledge and understanding, on the expansion and abuse of extraordinary law enforcement powers, and their impact on the exercise of fundamental human rights and freedoms.
Democratic policing indicators

APCOF has been funded to work together with the Afro-Asia Association for Justice Development (AAAJD) to develop a framework of indicators and measures for democratic policing. The indicators will be designed in a manner that will allow them to be adapted at local and station level to guide and affirm the positive relationships sought between communities and the police.

Safety Promotion and Crime and Violence Prevention

Precinct management support

This project is supported by the GIZ through its Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention (VCP) programme. APCOF, together with Fixed South Africa, will develop a guide for promoting safety planning at precinct level. The project will also include support for precinct safety planning in two localities in partnership with the South African Treasury’s Neighbourhood Development Partnership Programme.

Decriminalisation of petty offences in Africa

APCOF, with support from the Open Society Foundation’s Human Rights Initiative (OSF-HRI) provided technical assistance to the ACHPR for the development of the Principles on the Decriminalisation of Petty Offences in Africa. The Principles were formally launched by the ACHPR on 25 October 2018 in Banjul, Gambia, with APCOF represented on the launch panel to provide an input on behalf of civil society partners.

In partnership with a continental wide campaign on the decriminalisation of petty offences, APCOF is now working to support implementation of the Principles across Africa. In this regard, APCOF is supporting the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) as a technical partner in a project aimed at enhancing the role of African national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in the decriminalisation of petty offences in Africa. This supports includes the development of tools for NHRIs, including a simplified version of the Principles, an implementation scorecard, and advocacy materials. APCOF is also conducting research on by-laws that should be targeted for declassification and decriminalisation in South Africa.

SADC Guidelines on Crime and Violence Prevention

APCOF, with support from Open Society Foundation for Southern Africa (OSISA) is collaborating with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to develop Guidelines on Crime and Violence Prevention. The Guidelines were adopted in July 2018. APCOF is now working with SADC and partners from civil society to develop a supporting guidance note and indicators to assist implementation of the Guidelines across the region.

Strengthening community participation in local safety planning

This project supported by the GIZ funded “Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention for Safe Public Spaces” (VCP) programme, supports local municipalities, provincial departments and South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to build a competent and coordinated provincial to local government capacity within the crime and violence prevention space.

The project is intended to strengthen practitioners’ knowledge of community safety and violence prevention concepts and approaches in order for them to lead the implementation of the White Paper on Safety and Security of 2016 and the respective provincial and local safety strategies. Importantly, the project will enhance the mainstreaming of social crime prevention into Integrated Development Plans (IDPs).

Sustainable Development Goal 16

APCOF is working to promote a comprehensive monitoring and reporting by South Africa of its progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 16. This includes serving as a member of a Statistics South Africa convened thematic group on Governance, Justice and Peace (Goal 16), comprised of government departments and civil society partners, to review and make recommendations on the indicators and data sets relevant to South Africa’s reporting under Goal 16 ahead of South Africa’s reporting to the High-level Political Forum in 2019.

Training and Education

Advanced Course on Effective and Accountable Policing in Africa

APCOF convenes an annual advanced human rights course, ‘Effective and Accountable Policing in Africa’ at the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria.

Policing the urban periphery

APCOF partnered with the Ford Foundation, through the Institute of International Education (IIE), to develop and present new practical knowledge on policing in a book length collection of reviewed chapters on policing.