Security Agencies & Human Rights

Activists worldwide tend to focus primarily on human rights violations committed by their own governments, where the culprit is most likely to be the security apparatus which is viewed by some as antagonistic to human rights given that these agencies are the ones that carry out the arrest, interrogation and in some instances the torture, ill-treatment and dignity degradation of their detainees.

But a new doctrine is now emerging in the human rights world based on the tenet that security agencies can be transformed - as it should be – to be the protectors of human rights by applying the law, preventing infringements, combating violence and holding accountable violators of law and rights of other people. This shift in vision seems clear and obvious in many countries that have an advanced human rights record; but not in many other places of the world where the conflict between human rights activists?and security services still prevails, with each side viewing the other as hostile to them and a violator of the law and rights of citizens.

This poisonous relationship necessitates a change in the perspective of both sides towards each other. For as much as security services must deal positively with the concerns of human rights activists and understand their role and what guides them in their activities and the goals they seek to achieve, it is just as important for human rights activists to understand the concerns of security officers and the nature of their work and the responsibilities on their shoulders.

Therefore what is needed for both sides is education and training. Governments must seek to educate and train their security officers on human rights subjects in order to adhere to international standards in the fields of security and policing. They must also abide by international human rights standards and must not violate the law under the pretext of maintaining security. It is also required to have an open dialogue and cooperation with non-governmental organizations in order to monitor cases of human r?ghts violations committed by members of the security services and perhaps also to contribute to reforming the activities of those agencies.

But achieving this positive relationship requires confidence building; and the initiative, as always, lies at the door of the state and its affiliated security institutions. The latter must reach the conviction that the relationship with human rights organizations represents an added value to the work of security services. It must also believe in the importance of establishing a mutual cooperation in specific cases, in order to serve common objectives and activities so that such a relationship could yield? significant improvement in the human rights situation or else it would end up dead on arrival.