8 March 2010
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Police Adviser on Recent Trip to Haiti, Policing Issues

 


There was no doubt that policing was the same all over the world, requiring the treatment of everybody with respect, dignity and in accordance with their human rights during every contact, top police official Ann-Marie Orler said at Headquarters today.


Ms. Orler, the newly appointed Police Adviser in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, said the priority of United Nations police officers was to safeguard the social, economic and political rights of everybody.  Engagement by the United Nations Police had evolved since 1960 from passive monitoring to taking on executive policing tasks and helping reform national police forces, she said, pointing out that about 30,000 police officers from some 100 Member States were deployed today.  She noted, however, that although policing in the “global village” was based on universal values and professionalism, each mission had its own challenges.


Commenting on her trip to Haiti last week, Ms. Orler identified three main challenges for United Nations Police in the earthquake-devastated nation:  dealing with the immediate aftermath and the loss of life among colleagues; restoring the operational capacity of the Haitian National Police; and strategizing with the national authorities on the establishment of a holistic criminal justice system.


Other challenges facing United Nations Police included safeguarding the fragile peace and tranquillity in places like Darfur, Chad, Liberia, Timor-Leste and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she said.  In Timor-Leste, responsibilities were gradually being handed over to the national police, who had shown their maturity during the national elections and the January 2008 disturbances.  In the Sudan, community programmes had been initiated in camps for refugees and internally displaced people in Darfur, she said, adding that United Nations Police were “holding the hands” of the newly formed force in South Sudan.  In Liberia, the all-female formed police unit was giving new impetus to gender awareness.


She said that, as Police Adviser, her goal would be improving effectiveness and efficiency in supporting field missions and in advising and liaising with all stakeholders, including civil society and policing actors in post-conflict situations and the citizens who must be protected.  Another key priority was increasing to 20 per cent by 2014 the number of female police officers in peacekeeping operations, she said, noting that only through joint efforts could obstacles to making the best use of resources be overcome.


Asked about sexual abuse in Haiti’s “make-shift camps”, Ms. Orler said she had seen with her own eyes how difficult it was to patrol the camps, as the tents were close together and there was no electricity, leaving them completely dark at night and forcing people to shower on the streets.  A joint assessment was being carried out by non-governmental organizations, police, military, human rights organizations and other actors, to determine how to deal with the problem, she said, adding that she had invited human rights people to work with the Haitian National Police and United Nations Police and accompany them on patrols.


Since 70 per cent of the population was illiterate, it was important to find a means to raise awareness, for instance by radio, in the languages understandable to Haitians, such as French and Creole, she said, pointing out that flyers were being distributed in those languages.  With the rainy season getting under way, the main security problem was getting people into registered camps, she said.  The overall situation was calm, despite isolated incidents, and the Haitian National Police were visible, patrolling the streets, but lacking the means to be fully operational.


As for reports that national police had engaged in the extrajudicial killing of looters and escaped prisoners, she said she would provide more information about ongoing investigations.  Pointing out that the United Nations Police did not have an executive mandate and could not make arrests, she said Member States, including Turkey for the first time, had pledged to contribute police, but the priority now was to find French-speaking personnel.


Asked about the “immunity” of peacekeepers accused of sexual violence, she said any misconduct such as sexual exploitation and abuse was taken seriously and investigated under the zero-tolerance policy.  There had been three cases in 2009.  If the offence was serious, the people involved would be charged, she added, saying disciplinary measures involved curtailment or withholding of salary, a reprimand, or repatriation.  In such cases, the country concerned should prosecute, and the United Nations was trying to follow up on such cases.  A data system had been developed to prevent any abuser from returning to peacekeeping, she said, noting that troops were also checked for prior criminal records before deployment.


Pre-deployment training of police officers was the responsibility of Member States, she said in response to another question.  The Office of the Police Adviser was developing a standardized curriculum and addressing the matter of defining international policing.  A conference in Bangladesh was developing a standardized curriculum for formed police units, and police officers, once deployed, received a mission-specific induction.


Asked about Timor-Leste police officers beating demonstrators while United Nations police officers stood, as had been seen on video, she said the incident was under investigation.


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For information media • not an official record