New report raises human rights concerns about the policing of COP26 in Glasgow

Weeks after the end of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, a new report compiled by Netpol and The Article 11 Trust reveals concerns of numerous human rights breaches, including kettling, excessive force, racial discrimination, intrusive surveillance and intimidation and harassment of locals, protesters and Independent Legal Observers.

The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP) was the largest international summit ever hosted by the UK, bringing together 30,000 delegates with tens of thousands of protesters from Scotland and around the world. As a result, Police Scotland launched one of the UK’s biggest policing operations: Operation ‘Urram’, Gaelic for respect, bringing a vast network of ‘Mutal Aid’ Officers from every force in the country, with many drafted in from England and Wales.

Police Scotland have subsequently described their ‘human-rights based’ deployment as an overwhelming success, however, this report details a number of areas of concern. These include: kettling, racially discriminatory policing, widespread and apparently arbitrary stop and search to gather intelligence, intrusive surveillance and harassment, a negative impact of policing on local residents, poor treatment and obstruction of independent legal observers, and aggressive policing and excessive use of force.

Rachel Currie, research fellow with the Article 11 Trust, and author of the report, said:

“This research undertaken by Netpol and The Article 11 Trust raises a number of serious human rights concerns. We found significant discrepancies between the evidence we received, and the version of events told by Police Scotland, both in the media, and, notably, to professional oversight bodies such as the Scottish Police Authority.

In order to meaningfully protect and advance human rights in the UK, public authorities must be subject to impartial and effective scrutiny. A failure to do so, particularly with regards to allegations or reasonable suspicion of violence or excessive use of force, according to the UNHRC (General Comment 37, para 90.), can amount to a human rights violation in itself.”

Netpol and the Article 11 Trust urgently recommend, in line with international human rights guidelines and equality law, an effective, impartial investigation into the policing of the COP26 Conference.

Research also identified widespread, and potentially unlawful, unprecedented use of “Section 20” powers to justify stop and search, arrest, intrusive surveillance and ‘containment’. Nearly four years after an Independent Advisory Group on Stop and Search (IAGSS) highlighted “confusion and ambiguity” about the legality of its use as a search power, Netpol and Article 11 reaffirm IAGSS’s recommendation for an urgent review of the use of this legislation, without specificity, around protest.

The report is informed by evidence from over 120 witnesses, including protesters, legal observers, arrestee support volunteers and local grassroots groups SCALP and Not One Rogue Cop.

The publication and promotion of the report has been financially supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust, in partnership with Article 11. We have worked with Netpol as part of our programme of research and popular education on this issue, which aims to keep the policing of the protests in the public eye.

Further analysis will be undertaken as additional data becomes available from Police Scotland.

‘Respect or Repression’ is available to download here.