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Police and Human Rights

NCJ Number
Revue de droit penal et de criminologie Volume: 59 Issue: 6 Dated: (June 1979) Pages: 519-532
E Janssens
Date Published
14 pages
The relation between police power and constitutional liberties is discussed with special emphasis on freedom of speech, freedom from imprisonment, and freedom of congregation.
As society evolves, basic concepts such as the protection of civil liberties by the police require reconsideration. One major recent development in civil and criminal legislation is the emphasis on group rights, which imposes limitations on individual rights. As a result, the police, as representative of society, is more frequently called upon to protect the rights of groups against those of individuals. Although the freedom of speech is now taken for granted in democratic countries, it is not only limited by material factors (e.g., technical and economic limitations in gathering and transmitting information) but also by political factors. The legislating influence of socially privileged groups and the influence of mass media limit the individual's freedom of expression. The right to speedy trial and the protection against illegal seizure are limited through the possibility of preventive detention of suspected criminals. As before, the violation of individual rights is warranted by the need of protecting larger groups. In regulating the freedom of assembly, the police may find themselves in the added dilemma of not only protecting the rights of the group against those of individuals but also--as in labor conflicts or political demonstrations--the rights of society against the rights of a group. Faced with new uncertainties and policy developments, many of which are not completed, national governments and the police are urged to seek guidance in international agreements which map out the basic circumferences of the territory of human rights. --in French.