An Independent Investigative Mechanism: Identifying Ways To Combat Impunity In Georgia

By Mariam Uberi

According to a number of civil society and human rights commentators, Georgia requires an effective independent body to deal with the investigation of torture perpetrated by law enforcement officials.

Between 2013 and 2015, the Public Defender’s office made 58 referrals to the General Prosecutor’s office to investigate alleged ill treatment of prisoners either by the police or prison staff. Some reports indicate that the Prosecution office has either dropped some investigations or did not provide any information during the course of the investigation.

In 2016, the number of alleged acts of ill treatment committed by the police was higher than that perpetrated by prison staff. The number of referrals for investigations into ill treatment in prisons dropped by one third. Reportedly, only two of 173 allegations of ill treatment perpetrated by police were brought to the court.

These statistics raise serious questions around whether the investigative powers vested to the State security services, the Ministry of Corrections and the Ministry of Internal Affairs lack adequate guarantees of independence and impartiality to address legal wrongs by its public authorities. Further, the Public Defender’s office and various UN human rights bodies have highlighted trends of either dismissing allegations of ill treatment against state agents or instigating charges that carry lesser sentences.

This post will review the national legislative framework on torture and ill treatment and how it is implemented. It will then provide an overview of pertinent human rights obligations and will review a draft law on independent investigative mechanisms aimed at ending impunity by law enforcement agents.

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Police are using big data to profile young people, putting them at risk of discrimination

By Daragh Murray and Pete Fussey

This blog originally appeared on The Conversation

Amnesty International has raised a series of human rights issues in connection with the “gang matrix” developed and run by London’s Metropolitan Police, in a recent report. According to the report, appearing on the database could affect the lives of 3,806 people, 80% of whom are between 12 and 24 years old.

There are no specific details about how the matrix operates and is used by police. It exists, at least in part, to address the difficulties in policing gang activities across different districts. But it’s suspected that – because of government data sharing – appearing on the database will “follow” young people around, affecting their access to housing, education or work.

The Met said in a statement, “The overarching aim of the matrix is to reduce gang-related violence and prevent young lives being lost”, but added that it was working with Tottenham MP David Lammy, Amnesty International and the Information Commissioner’s Office to “help understand the approach taken”.

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A Bad Decision from GTMO: Why the Commission Lacks Jurisdiction over 9/11 Defendants

By Tara Van Ho

This week, US courts issued two important cases for international law, in the areas of business and human rights and the laws of armed conflict. First, the US Supreme Court’s Jesner v. Arab Bank decision foreclosed the use of the Alien Tort Statute to hold corporations accountable for their role in violations of human rights. Then, the US military commission at Guantanamo Bay found it had personal jurisdiction over the 9/11 defendant in US v Mohammad, et al. To do this, the commission had to determine an armed conflict existed between the US and Al Qaeda on 9/11.

Both cases significantly warped international law.

I’ll address both cases through a series of posts here, at Nadia Bernaz’s Rights as Usual, and on my own blog. In this post, I’ll address issues with the most significant decision of the Mohammad judgment: the finding of the commission that on 9/11 the US was engaged in an armed conflict.

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Vicarious Trauma of the Private Counter-Terror Workforce: Extending the Duty of Care

By Vivian Ng

Communities used to gather on street corners, sidewalks, parks and public squares. Today, social media platforms are increasingly the forum of choice for individuals seeking to express themselves, communicate, interact, organise, and even mobilise. These online platforms are today’s public square, where free exchange and development of opinions and ideas can happen. However, there are concerns that social media has also become a forum for terrorists, racists, misogynists, or child abusers to thrive. As a result, and particularly in light of recent terror attacks, there is pressure on social media companies to be more proactive in preventing their platforms from being used to radicalise and incite violence. In response, social media companies are investing in more resources to moderate content on their platforms, particularly by expanding teams of content moderators. A critical reflection of the human rights implications engaged by this evolving role and the responsibility of technology companies is necessary. This post will focus on one specific element of the wider debate: an interrogation of the duty of care owed to the so-called ‘private counter-terror workforce’.

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“People just don’t get it” an interview with Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts about why surveillance issues aren’t getting the attention they deserve

By Ajay Sandhu 

The precarious state of privacy often fails to stir public attention. For example, the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), a piece of legislation granting police and intelligence agencies sweeping surveillance powers in the UK, is said to have passed into law “with barely a whimper.” What explains this lukewarm response? How does the US install bulk surveillance programs like Total Information Awareness (TIA) or the UK pass privacy threatening bills like the IPA (sometimes called the “snooper’s charter”) without receiving the level of attention that one might expect from a society which claims to value privacy rights?

To help answer this question, I spoke to Kade Crockford, the director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (ACLUM). I spoke to Crockford because of her expert knowledge on issues related to privacy, security, and surveillance as well as her recent experience leading a campaign against the Boston Police Departments’ plan to buy social media spying software. Crockford played a central role in the pro-privacy advocacy which likely encouraged the Boston PD to scrap their plans. I thought that Crockford could offer insights into why surveillance practices aren’t earning a critical response and how to reverse this trend. Continue reading

The Police’s Data Visibility Part 2: The Limitations of Data Visibility for Predicting Police Misconduct

By Ajay Sandhu

In part 1 of this blog, I suggested that raising the police’s data visibility may improve opportunities to analyse and predict fatal force incidents. In doing so, data visibility may offer a solution to problems related to high numbers of fatal force incidents in the US. However, data visibility is not without limitations. Problems including the (un)willingness of data scientists and police organisations to cooperate and the (un)willingness of police organisations to institute changes based on the findings of data scientists’ work must be considered before optimistically declaring data visibility a solution to problems related to fatal force. In this blog, I discuss two addition limitations of data visibility, including low-quality data and low-quality responses to early intervention programs. Both are problems related to the prediction and intervention stages of using data to reduce fatal force incidents. Future blogs can discuss issues related to the earlier stages of using data to reduce fatal force incidents such as collection and storage of data about police work.

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The Police’s Data Visibility 1: how data can be used to monitor police work and how it could be used to predict fatal force incidents

By Ajay Sandhu

Editors note: This is the first of a two-part blog post examining the potential impact of data visibility on law enforcement.

The Counted, Fatal Force, and Mapping Police Violence websites each collect, store, and display data about people killed by police in the United States. These websites are just a few of the emerging platforms designed to address the significant gap in information left by US police organisations’ failure to create, maintain, and publically disclose data about “fatal force” incidents. When visiting any of the three websites mentioned above, visitors can access in-depth statistics, charts, graphs, and maps, which provide details about the number of fatal force incidents that have occurred, their locations, the identity of officers involved, and the demographics of victims. The availability of this information has solicited questions about if and how digital data can address persistent problems related to a lack of transparency and accountability in policing, and the lack of information about fatal force incidents:

  • Can data enable new opportunities to scrutinize fatal force incidents?
  • Can data provide an opportunity to discover trends associate with fatal force incidents?
  • Can data analysis provide the police with the knowledge required to reduce fatal force incidents?

This two-part blog focuses on the last question by considering the opportunities and limitations of using digital data to monitor police work, document fatal force incidents, and create intervention programs designed to reduce fatal force incidents.

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Data Driven Policing: Highlighting Some Risks Associated with Predicting Crime

By Ajay Sandhu

The Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project (HRBDT) recently made a submission to the UK Home Affairs Committee inquiry into ‘Policing for the future: changing demands and new challenges’. The submission summarized the opportunities and risks associated with the police’s adoption of ‘data driven technologies,’ which aid the bulk collection, storage, and analysis of data about persons, places, and practices. Data driven technologies can improve the efficiency of police work by offering law enforcement agencies methods of analysing crime data and generating predictions about crime that is yet to take place. For example, police can use data driven technology to make decisions regarding the most-effective allocation of scarce police resources. However, existing research indicates a series of risks that must be considered when adopting data driven technologies. This submission highlights three risks associated with data driven technologies, focusing on: the quality of the input data, the potential for discriminatory decision-making, and privacy harms. This blog recaps the conclusion of our submission by highlighting the risks associated with data driven technologies used to predict crimes.

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Policing and its relationship with Human Rights

By Graham Dossett


Recent global images of police brutality provide good reason to cause us to pause and reflect.  Policing need not be unnecessarily violent.  In most cases, in reality, police officers are ordinary members of civil society who have some additional powers and responsibilities in order to allow them to achieve their purpose in circumstances of last resort.  There is absolutely no reason why police and security force personnel cannot treat everyone they deal with, in any circumstance, lawfully and with dignity and humanity.  To do otherwise can be seriously counterproductive.

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Supreme court rulings open door to future ‘war on terror’ litigation in Britain

By Daragh Murray

The UK Supreme Court has handed down three landmark judgements relating to the activities of UK authorities and officials in the fight against terrorism. The court ruled on January 17 that cases could now proceed against UK officials accused of involvement in detention and rendition operations – even if foreign states and their officials were the “prime actors” of alleged human rights violations. This means that cases can now proceed against, among others, the former foreign secretary Jack Straw.

Another key element of the rulings relates to the authority to detain people in armed conflict, and the interplay between the law of armed conflict and international human rights law.

The Supreme Court’s rulings will have a significant impact on future litigation in relation to the activity of UK authorities and officials abroad. As a number of the claims relate to the extraterritorial application of the Human Rights Act and its application to UK armed forces, these cases are particularly sensitive in the current political climate.

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