image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Global Police Cooperation, Social Activism & Human Rights

A Tribune India headline reads: Intel shared by India led to raids on Sikh activists in UK.

       (Ruchika M Khanna, 25 September). These raids based on shared intelligence, do raise some questions and concerns about international police cooperation. More so as we look at the record of the diverse regimes around the world regarding rule of law, independence of the judiciary, treatment of minorities, universal human rights, freedom of press and social activism.

The background to the Tribune report is the home searches conducted by the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit on the premises of some Sikh activists in the UK. Going by the Indian press and a statement made by the Midlands Police, this action was taken apparently as a result of the sharing of information between the governments of India and the UK.

In this context, one is also reminded of International Criminal Police Organization, known as Interpol which facilitates international police cooperation. It has an annual budget of around &euro113 million (Euro dollars) and had a membership of police forces in 192 countries in 2017. That means almost every country in the world including India and the UK are Interpol members and share information about criminals. Normally, it should be most re-assuring for law-abiding citizens that vigilant police forces around the world are working together to keep global law and order by sharing information and fighting international crime.

However, fighting terrorism can also become the means of supressing the much-needed lawful community activism in areas of community cohesion and charity work, otherwise encouraged by governments through grants, awards and honours. Leaving aside the constitutional and legal aspects, the question is if UK social activists of Indian or Punjab origin would feel safe if they knew that the UK police and the Indian and Punjab police are sharing information about them? A most worrying aspect is how such information is obtained and for what purpose: to combat crime or to suppress lawful socio-political activism?

When we look around the world today, we find that many states themselves resort to terror tactics to fight terrorism! Two wrongs do not make a right. Amnesty International reports tell us of police brutality in many countries. A league table of countries which openly abuse human rights is published. It is well known that in some countries, signed confessions from those in police custody are obtained by using torture and threats. Presumably, names of almost everyone known to them are obtained. It is possible that even names of politically troublesome but otherwise lawful activists at home and abroad are included in such allegedly signed confessions. The judicial processes can be manipulated by political interests. Charity and social workers become apprehensive when travelling abroad because, sometimes, the greatest need for charity work is amongst the most neglected sections of society in countries known for state terrorism.

Trade considerations can play a part in bi-lateral police cooperation between countries and a blind eye can be turned when it comes to human rights record of trading partners. Serious questions are raised about the justification for Midlands Police raids on some Sikh homes.


Gurmukh Singh OBE