Police safari photos!

Everyone of us saw, at least once, the pictures of a lineup of people arrested by police forces on suspicion of various offenses in pretty much every Kuwaiti newspaper. These suspects are shown kneeling on the floor in front of the illegal goods they were caught with, be it drugs, international calling telephones, or even DVDs. In my view, taking these pictures and publishing them is an extremely inhumane thing to do for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, by subjecting people to these circumstances, police forces violate the law. Even worse, they violate the constitutional and human rights of people, which state that suspects are innocent until they are proved guilty. These people should be first proved guilty in a court of law before being treated like criminals. The fact that they were caught by police forces smuggling, calling, or selling DVDs is only an evidence which is yet to be evaluated by a judge, it is not by all means a final

Therefore, those people are legally innocent when their pictures are taken. Publishing their pictures in such a manner in the media is in itself a violation of the law which police was found to enforce in the first place.

Secondly, even if we discard the fact that suspects are innocent until they are proved guilty, we would be faced with another dilemma if the court rules that a photographed suspect is indeed innocent. By carrying out such a public punishment against suspects before court trial, the police is ruining so many lives without even noticing it.

Not only the suspect will suffer from social isolation, but the impact of these pictures could exceed the suspects themselves and cause lifetime psychological traumas to suspect's relatives, family members, and most devastatingly on his children. Those children, if nothing else is to be considered, are 100 percent innocent people who were punished in one way or another by the publication of such lineup photos.

What would 'law-enforcement' officials feel, if a suspect is proved innocent, and the court orders to publish the picture of the officer kneeling in front of the libeled ex-suspect person? I mean it will only be fair that way, since the officer will also be kneeling in front of the subject with whom he violated the law.

Thirdly, within this practice itself, another form of inhumanity is taking place – discrimination. Only when the arrested suspects are Kuwaitis do the pictures arrive with blurred faces. When expats are photographed, their pictures are sent to newspapers with uncovered faces.

While different police departments continue to fight the PR war with each other, and while each one of them is trying to show more pictures of their safari hunts, people are being hurt for life-time.

Please don't write to me to say that I am defending criminals, because I am not. I mean don't get me wrong, it is always good to know that police forces are active in protecting the society against all security threats. Their efforts are applauded by everyone. But while they make us feel proud of the job they are doing, they are causing much harm to innocent people and compromising a value that is central in our constitution, our culture and our religion – the human dignity.

© Kuwait Times 2010

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