Author Archives: Brianne McGonigle Leyh

Brianne McGonigle Leyh

About Brianne McGonigle Leyh

Dr. McGonigle Leyh is an associate professor with Utrecht University’s Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM) where she is a member of the Montaigne Centre for Judicial Administration and Conflict Resolution. She is also an executive editor of the Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights and co-directs the Utrecht Centre for International Studies (UCIS)

Using Guarantees of Non-Repetition to (Re)Frame Police Reforms

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Brianne McGonigle Leyh

(The below blog is based on a draft article presented at the conference ‘Guarantees of Non-Recurrence: Transformative Police Reform’ on 5 November 2018 in Utrecht, the Netherlands)

Countries around the world grapple with how to address excessive police violence that violates human rights. For decades, scholars and practitioners have stressed the importance of establishing better relationships between police and the communities they serve and have adopted various ways to bring about real police reform that fosters relationships of trust. Community policing, democratic policing, and problem-oriented policing are some of the ways in which police have sought to make this change. At the international level, Security Sector Reform (SSR) is the umbrella term used to describe reform programmes adopted in States where the security sector (namely the military, police, gendarmes, and militias) has become a source of insecurity. The current view of SSR is that it must be a transformative process built upon human security and democratic governance. Human security demands that the interests of the individual, rather than the State, should dictate security policy (Ball 2010). Democratic governance requires respect for human rights, rule of law and adherence to principles such as inclusiveness, transparency and accountability (OECD DAC 2005). The transformation of the security system requires all of relevant actors (police, politicians and civil society) to work together. Yet, whether in Ferguson, USA, Paris, France or Nairobi, Kenya, the gaps between the idealistic rhetoric and harsh realities of police/security practice are significant. As noted by Ball and Hendrickson, much of the work concerning police reform is ‘misleadingly optimistic about the prospects for change’ (p. 104). The consensus among scholars and practitioners is that SSR, and police reform in particular, has been extremely difficult to implement in large part because of mistrust, lack of accountability, and susceptibility to corruption. Given the slow progress on police reform initiatives, it may be useful to look to distinct but relevant fields to (re)frame police reforms. Guarantees of non-repetition (or non-recurrence as it is also referred to) from the post-conflict peacebuilding field offer a normative institutional policy framework built around human rights standards and State responsibility that could potentially shift the rhetoric to focus on State obligations that are context-driven. The language of and programming falling under guarantees of non-repetition could prove useful when addressing police reform; noting, however, that the success of any reform policy is ‘directly proportional’ to the State and communities’ enthusiasm for it (p. 35). Continue reading

International Studies Association Conference in Trump Country: Discussing civil society documentation of serious human rights abuses

conference-room-768441_960_720Brianne McGonigle Leyh

From 22 – 25 February, I travelled to the US to attend the 58th annual International Studies Association (ISA) conference entitled ‘Understanding Change in World Politics’. The theme could not be more relevant as we witness significant changes to the world political scene, most notably under the new Trump administration in the USA. A willingness by political leaders such as Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Rodrigo Duterte, and others to violate or be dismissive of human rights norms, underscores the important role played by civil society actors in holding leaders to account.
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When It Rains, It Pours: Tracking the recent developments in international criminal justice

ictyBrianne McGonigle Leyh

International criminal justice has a reputation for being slow and progressing at a ‘glacial’ pace. For example, it took the International Criminal Court (ICC) ten years before it handed down its first judgment in the Lubanga case after it started operating in 2002. Similarly, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has a reputation for slowness; particularly after some trials lasted longer than six or more years. Court watchers are all too aware of the slow, sporadic developments coming out of these courts, and often eagerly await judgments. That is why the months of March and April 2016 were so anticipated, as they provided a windfall of developments within international criminal justice. The old expression is true: when it rains, it pours! Continue reading