International Centre for Violence Research
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Research Line 2: Justifications and Legitimacy of Police Violence. A Comparative Analysis of Norms of Internal Security in five Transition Countries

As specific types of state violence, Police violence and violence by security forces are rampant in many countries today. Societies with autocratic rulers and a colonial past seem to be most strongly affected by the phenomenon. Scientific and political explanations usually focus on the police's lack of training and adequate equipment, on the violence-prone cop culture, or on the politicisation of the security forces. While not outrightly rejecting those interpretations, this project wants to gain a more holistic understanding of the police-society relation which forms the context of violent forms of policing. In order to analyse police violence in its embeddeness in society, the three case studies in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Peru focus on various actors' perception of police violence and on discourses justifying and legitimising this form of political violence.

Research Line Leader: Sina Birkholz


Research Projects

University Students’ Demonstration and Police Response in Nigeria

Violence is usually a method deployed by individuals and groups to tackle the seeming insolubility of the socio-political and economic problems that affect them. Nigerian students have protested and demonstrated against various socio-economic and political issues. These protests and demonstrations have not always been peaceful and have attracted violent response from the police, because it has often been argued that violence is the most effective way of counteracting violence. In consequence, violent methods such as the use of tear gas, live ammunitions, arrest, and detention without charges are employed by the police to manage student demonstrations. This research focuses on the response of the police to University students’ demonstration in Nigeria with a keen interest on the violent manner of these responses. It observes that insufficient training and lack of understanding of the methods of managing demonstrations often conspire to make police response to students’ demonstrations violent. It also studies the various forms and trends of police violence and engages on the debates on which forms are acceptable and legitimate. The various justifications provided for the use of violence by the police are analysed for their acceptability, logic, and necessity in this study.

Junior Researcher: Enibokun Uzebu (Nigeria)


Examining the Determinants of Police Violence in Pakistan

Quintessentially, it is believed that police in Pakistan resort to torture quite frequently. The scale and magnitude of the prevalence may be debatable; however, its existence is seldom questioned. The real question that begs social inquiry, nevertheless, has never been asked: what are the determinants of torture? What are the dynamics of the process of torture? The instant research is aimed at empirically studying the dynamics of torture and to identify the determinants that produce and supply torture. In the research I will analyse whether judicial processes, ownership patterns of property, and other such factors influence the supply of torture or whether the process is independent of the aforementioned factors. The methodology employed in the research is based on triangulation of both qualitative and quantitative data. It is hoped that the research will be the first of its kind as it will try to evaluate the process on absolute merit irrespective of any bias or influences.

Junior Researcher: Kamran Adil (Pakistan)


Facing the violence of drug trafficking in the forest: The case of the ashaninkas of the Ene River

The main purpose of the research is to understand how the local Asháninka indigenous population copes in their day-to-day life with the conflict produced by drug trafficking and political violence in the valley of the Rivers Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro (VRAEM) in the rain forest region of Perú. I will be working on the concepts of policing, state violence, legitimation of the violence, and vulnerability to see its reflection on the access to citizenship and basic services, which is actually very poor. VRAEM is a drug production hot spot guarded by drug cartels. Since this region is considered to be in a state of emergency, government agents and also the military are present. My field work will consist of two phases. In Phase 1 I will focus on working on the state institutions responsible for safeguarding public security in the area. I’ll approach this topic in two different ways; one way is to get to know the “written” part of the conflict and the other way is to analyse the strategies and experiences that the members of the state have about working in the area. Finally, in Phase 2 I will analyse the current situation of the Asháninkas and their perception of the state and non-state violence they encounter.

Junior Researcher: Vera Lucia Rios (Peru)