The Association for the Prevention of TortureAnnual Report 2019

Watch and read our main 2019 achievements: we worked in all regions with a variety of partners and increased independent oversight of detention; focused on rights in the first hours of custody and shed lights on persons in situation of vulnerability.

Word from
the Secretary General
Barbara Bernath, Secretary General

Prevention of torture made progress in 2019. Around the world, 71 national bodies visit all types of places of detention. Thanks to our regional meetings in Africa, Americas and Europe they are stronger together. There is a growing recognition of the need to move away from forced confessions and adopt other methods to collect reliable information and ensure justice. Law enforcement, civil society and families better know the rights and safeguards applicable in the early hours of detention. Last but not least, the most vulnerable in detention, in particular women and LGBTI persons, are not invisible any more.

We thank our partners who made this possible.

Celebrating 30 years of preventive monitoring in Europe

In 1989, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) was established under the Council of Europe, following advocacy of the APT (Swiss Committee against Torture at the time). Jean-Jacques Gautier’s vision of an independent body carrying out unannounced visits to all places of detention was concretized. In November 2019, we gathered practitioners from all over Europe to discuss achieved progress, challenges and ways forward, with a focus on fundamental safeguards in police custody. 

Efforts to tackle severe setbacks in Brazil

In June, a Presidential Decree dismantled the National Preventive Mechanism of Brazil. APT engaged with the international community, which responded in unprecedented ways. The UN SPT asserted Brazil´s failure to comply with OPCAT, while 19 NPMs from Latin America called for the Decree´s withdrawal. An injunction was issued in a legal proceeding, provisionally restoring the structure of the NPM. APT also consolidated its partnership with the National Council of Justice to build on the skills of judges to document signs of torture and enable accountability.

Guidelines on non-coercive interviewing

We continue to spearhead the development of the Guidelines, coordinating the work of the initiative’s expert-led bodies, participating in developing and implementing strategies for advocacy worldwide. Milestones include two working meetings (Thailand and Norway) and significant progress on the draft; regional and international awareness-raising; new partnerships with national, regional and international stakeholders; and recognition of the initiative by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and General Assembly [in report/resolution].

Emerging National Preventive Mechanisms in Africa

A core group of a dozen established NPMs has begun to work in Africa and can also assist each other as a regional community. APT supported these efforts through two regional workshops – one in Morocco for French speaking bodies and one in Rwanda. They brought together African NPMs to share their priorities, discuss challenges, and decide on ways they can work together in the future.

We have also continued our strategic support to the NPMs of Tunisia and Mauritania. In Togo and Rwanda we supported the NPMs with training on detention monitoring, advice on internal organisation and strategic support for their first year of operation.

Progress made in reducing risks for those most vulnerable in detention

Deprivation of liberty can be particularly harmful for persons in situation of vulnerability, who have specific needs and require additional protection.

A roundtable on women and prison in Geneva enabled fruitful discussions with experts and practitioners, promoting a gender-sensitive perspective across the whole prison system. We led discussions with experts, NGOs and the NPM on protection measures for LGBTI detainees in Panama and in Brazil, where we also took part at a hearing at the Congress.

In Romania, we trained the NPM in monitoring psychiatric institutions, which laid the ground for specific cooperation with authorities.

Implementing concrete safeguards in the first hours of detention

Access to a lawyer, immediate information of the family about the arrest or registration of detention are key to reduce the risk of torture and ill-treatment in the first hours of detention. In 2019, we assisted our partners in making these rights better known and better implemented in practice.

In Thailand, the APT developed an Action Toolkit to disseminate information about rights and notification of family among authorities and Thai public.

In Madagascar, we piloted the project in the four main police stations of the capital, testing new custody registers and a Letter of rights (read and handed over to each arrested person). In Lebanon, we trained lawyers on their role in preventing torture and ill-treatment. In Morocco, together with the Centre on Human Rights and Democracy, we analysed and discussed the domestic challenges and good practices on implementing fundamental safeguards.

Latin America: enhancing the role of torture prevention mechanisms in monitoring safeguards

National and Local Preventive Mechanisms have a key role to play in addressing the risks of torture during the early stages of detention and monitoring the implementation of safeguards.

During the regional workshop organised by APT and the Mexican NPM, exchanges showed that torture prevention mechanisms become more strategic in how they monitor the first hours of detention, focusing on situations of risks, including public protests. Some also developed tools to inform the public about their rights.

In Mexico and Paraguay, we also facilitated dialogue with authorities, other state institutions and civil society to advance the implementation of safeguards in practice.

APT in numbers

Some key numbers from our website in 2019:

9 000 users of APT Database on human rights in prison
9 000 users

of APT's database on human rights in prison


of APT's guide on LGBTI persons in detention (in 4 languages)

100 000 website sessions
100 000 website sessions

from 10 countries

Financial situation

In 2019, there was a slight decrease in revenues, confirming the reorientation of some donors' priorities initiated in previous years. This decline was limited mainly thanks to the trust of the Swiss Government, which increased its core support. In addition, we developed strategies to generate private donations and to diversify sources of income. Efforts to reduce fixed costs were maintained with revision of service contracts. Several changes in the secretariat also resulted in a smaller team at the end of the year. We are now in a transformative process to ensure greater financial stability. We thank our donors for their support and look forward to your renewed support.

Download the audited accounts 2019

APT in 2019

President: Martine Brunschwig Graf, Switzerland. Vice-Presidents: Michael Kellett (UK); Erika Schläppi (Switzerland). Treasurer: Klaus Belzer (Switzerland). Board members: Abdelwahad Hani (Tunisia), Cecilia Jimenez-Damary (Philippines), Krassimir Kanev (Bulgaria), Jacques Lederrey (Switzerland), Jeehan Mahmood (Maldives), Juan Mendez (Argentina), Merwat Rishmawi (Palestine/UK), Suzanne Soukoudé (Togo), Walter Suninger (Austria).

APT team: Barbara Bernath, Sandra Andenmatten, Jean-Sébastien Blanc, Benjamin Buckland, Eva Csergö, Alexis Comninos, Rachel Delapierre, Sylvia Dias, Catherine Felder, Veronica Filippeschi, Isabelle Heyer Frigo, Anne Lardy, Sean Mowbray, Andra Nicolescu, Jean-Baptiste Niyizurugero, Audrey Olivier-Muralt, Yasmine Shams, Cecile Trochu Grasso, Romain Zappella, Shazeera Zawawi.