What Has Changed in Policing since the Arab Uprisings of 2011? Surveying Policing Concepts and Modes of Contestation

Should we address policing through a regional lens?

Addressing the topic of policing within the frame of the “Arab World” is challenging for at least three major reasons. First is the question of definitions with ongoing debates about what counts as “policing” rather than “internal security” or indeed military practice.1Boundaries are blurred further in the Arab context in the cases where authoritarian governments have instrumentalised the police as a political enforcement bodies, or where the police have found themselves on the front lines of armed conflicts and are substantially militarised and partisan, or where competing policing bodies have been set up.2 It is perhaps most straightforward to proceed with an approximate continuum-style definition of what constitutes “policing”  – i.e. bodies that in principle function to protect law and order, claim legitimate use of force through their place in the state, and are not as militarised as the military in their respective countries.

Make-shift definitional issues aside, the second challenge is the diversity in the police forces and their encompassing political structures. To use a somewhat acontextual measure of capacity, in the World Internal Security Index, Bahrain and Algeria’s police scores highest and fifth in the world, while Morocco and Yemen lie in the bottom quartile.3 To take another measure – at one end of the trust scale, around nine in 10 Jordanians say they trust their police, but only around half of Palestinians trust theirs.4 Meanwhile, in terms of legal-judicial framework, while most police forces in the Arab world function within systems founded on the French Code civil tradition and follow an inquisitorial style of criminal procedure, the picture is nuanced by the legacy of Common Law in areas of former British influence, various codifications of sharia, as well as uncodified traditions and customs. 5 Furthermore, the police also are part of highly diverse political systems – spanning authoritarian regimes (from the more benign to the less so), tentative democracies, weak or contested states and outright conflict zones…

Read full article at Arab Reform Initiative