(30 November 2011) On 10 and 11 November, nearly 300 representatives from over 90 countries gathered in Geneva to take stock of progress and challenges in the prevention of torture, five years after the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture entered into force. The Global Forum was organised by the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT).
The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) was a ground-breaking development as it was the first international treaty to create not only an international monitoring body, but an obligation of states to establish such a mechanism at the national level where it would allow for more regular visits to places of detention, increasing the preventive effect. At the international level, the Sub-Committee to Prevent Torture (SPT) conducts visits to states parties of the OPCAT. But at the same time, countries which ratified this convention are obliged to establish so-called National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) and to allow them to conduct unannounced visits to any place where people are deprived of their liberty.
Five years into this system of preventive visits to places of detention being in force, the forum was convened in order to take stock of progress and challenges faced by the SPT and the NPMs in the prevention of torture and other forms of ill-treatment and to discuss how the work of the mechanisms established under this convention could be improved.
A variety of workshops looked into specific issues and raised various suggestions and recommendations for improvement. The exchange of experience ranged from thematic workshops on an inclusive strategy in torture prevention, the enhancement of the SPT’s impact and ratification campaigns to regional workshops. A conference report summarising the discussions and recommendations will be published by the APT early next year.
PRI was represented by the Policy Director Andrea Huber and Torture Prevention Project Manager Mushegh Yekmalyan and, for example, raised that many of the conditions in detention amounting to torture and ill-treatment result from overcrowding. As a consequence, it would be important to look into and address the underlying causes of this phenomenon. At the same time, it would require the SPT and the NPMs to analyse criminal justice issues more broadly, beyond issues relating directly to the infrastructure and rules regulating the detention facilities. PRI Policy Director Andrea Huber was one of the session rapporteurs of the OPCAT Global Forum.
Alongside the in-depth discussions on the impact of the mechanisms created by the OPCAT, the Forum provided PRI with an opportunity to meet with representatives of the APT, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and various partner organisations, experts and stakeholders.
PRI also promoted its bilingual website “Together against torture”.
This first networking event has allowed the main players to share good practices and identify ways forward: to continue the campaign of OPCAT ratification as well as ensuring implementation on the ground by increasing the effectiveness of national monitoring bodies, and to include new actors in the process.
If you would like to find out more about the OPCAT Global Forum organised by APT, including a webcast of the whole conference, please click here.
To find out more about the APT’s work on torture prevention, click here.