Promoting Police Accountability

Prevention of xenophobic violence and related hate crimes in South Africa

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.

Read the research from this project:

Police accountability in South Africa

APCOF is undertaking a range of activities aimed at 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.
  • Supporting the development of South Africa National Preventive Mechanism
  • 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 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.

The project 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).

 Read the research from this project:

Developing and Promoting Human Rights and Accountability in Security Sector Reform

This project will run over 24 months to promote a rights-based approach to security sector governance and accountability and respond to existing and emerging security challenges by building on and consolidating several key gains related to human rights protection, oversight and accountability in the security sector.  This is achieved by consolidating norm setting at an AU level where APCOF will work with the Department of Political Affairs and Peace and Security of the AU and African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) to develop key guidance for security sector reform in three critical areas; Accountability, Mediation and in Upholding Human Rights in States of Emergency and Disaster. 

Policing and Migration

APCOF will is collaborating with the Danish Institute for Human Rights to work with  the ACHPR and partners to develop tools for the criminal justice agencies to protect the right to life of migrants, both in terms of the deployment of force against them in the enforcement of immigration and criminal law, as well as the obligation on the state to protect migrants from all forms of violence, including xenophobic attacks and hate crimes. 

Use of Force

APCOF is collaborating with the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa in research to map the training of law enforcement officials on the use of force in Africa as part of the study mandated by the African Commission resolution 43. The research aims to understand (a) how use of force training is currently approached; (b) where the gaps in promoting a rights-based approach to the use of force are evident (both in terms of scope and content, including emerging issues such as the use of less lethal weapons), and how the Special Rapporteur could usefully provide a resource to address those gaps; and (c) whether there are any good practice examples from within the continent that can be shared.  APCOF is now working on a training and dissemination tool, which will be designed to draw on the recommendations and good practice identified by the study

Safety Promotion and Crime and Violence Prevention

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.

Crime and Violence Prevention Guidelines for Eastern Africa

APCOF is providing technical support to the East African Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (EAPCCO) to develop a set of guidelines on Crime and Violence Prevention The Guidelines support an evidence-based approach to preventing crime and violence that occurs within the East African Region in support the mandate of the EAPCCO members to cooperate in combatting transnational, cross-border and general crime, develop policies and strategies to combat crime in the region, work with partners to study and research regional and national crime trends and patterns, and build capacity of law enforcement within the region.

Training and Education

Advanced Course on Effective and Accountable Policing in Africa

APCOF convenes two annual advanced human rights course in partnership with at the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, ‘Effective and Accountable Policing in Africa’  and Policing and Vulnerability. The programme of effective and accountable policing includes lectures on the introduction to key international and regional human rights standards relevant to policing and criminal justice systems, democratic policing and accountability; National oversight and accountability frameworks; use of force; regulating and monitoring public gatherings; surveillance and its impact; basic guarantees during arrest and detention preventing and combatting torture; effective and non-coercive interviewing and the prevention of torture; the right to life and the duty to investigate; the impact of new technologies on police oversight; internal police discipline; oversight during situations of emergency; the important role of legitimacy and building trust; and access to justice in states of emergency.

Police Human Rights Dialogue

APCOF in partnership with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the South African Police Service (SAPS), hosts an annual  National Dialogue on Police and Human Rights. Reda the report on the latest Dialogue here and Hyperlink to the latest dialogue report