Africa Torture Prevention Conference
From the 27 to 28 April 2010, the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) and Amnesty International Senegal, in collaboration with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), jointly organised a timely regional conference on the prevention of torture. The event was held in Dakar, Senegal, under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice of Senegal.
Context of the Conference
This conference was in the same perspective of a similar initiative last November, in Strasbourg, with the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of the Committee against (SPT) and National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) in the European region, which was organised by the APT and the CPT.
The Conference brought together over 60 participants from African States that are party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) and signatory States that are in an advanced phase of ratification (16 in total). It gathered representatives of Government Ministries; National Human Rights Institutions, NPM, United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, United Nations Agencies, International Organisations, Regional Organisations as well as Civil Society Organisations.
The conference aimed in particular at promoting the ratification and implementation of the OPCAT and supporting States Parties to establish and ensure the effective functioning of NPMs, encouraged the exchange of experience and good practices in preventing torture. It also laid the foundations of cooperation between NPMs emerging in Africa and brought about synergies between them and other national, regional and international actors involved in torture prevention.
Methodology and Issues
The discussions in plenary sessions were focused on the following issues: the essential characteristics of the OPCAT (monitoring places of detention, institution of a system for preventing torture and ill-treatment, etc.), the options offered to States in designating effective NPMs (creating new specialized organs or designating existing human rights institutions as NPM), the exchange of experiences and good practices in ratification and implementation of the OPCAT (constructive dialogue including all national actors such as political authorities, members of parliament, and civil society).
The discussions which followed the various presentations put in evidence, on one hand, the importance of a synergy between national actors for designating an effective NPM with functional and financial independence as well as with guarantees which will confer it a credibility; and on the other hand, the contribution of the international actors providing expertise and technical support for the implementation of the OPCAT.
Two themes were analyzed during the working group sessions.
The first theme concerned the interaction between the actors in the field of the prevention of torture in Africa. The discussions led to identification of national actors that could be involved, in particular victims ( detainees and their families), prison services, chaplains, psychologists, national institutions of human rights, ministries, the judiciary and other actors that can have a positive impact on the NPM activities such as members of parliament, researchers and academics). At sub- regional, regional and international level, the participants identified actors who can play a role of support to NPM, in particular ACHPR, African sub-regional organizations, European Union, NGO, etc.
For a better interaction between actors of prevention, three types of propositions were suggested. The first one is related to the institution of a constructive dialogue. This requires defining a framework for dialogue involving all actors that are favorable or not to the preventive monitoring of places of detention. The second proposition concerns the establishment of a cooperation of multiple types (networking of MNP, technical and financial support from the SPT or other NPMs and CPTA). The third proposition is about the necessity of a control or an evaluation of the NPMs activities to ensure their credibility. The importance of international or sub regional meetings between the NPMs or the network of NPMs as well as the necessity of a parliamentary control of the activities of the NPMs as were highlighted.
The second theme concerned the functioning of the NPM. The participants discussed in particular the functional and financial guarantees of NPMs. The focus was put on the preventive mandate of NPMs and the global approach to be promoted which includes not only monitoring places of detention but also the identification of possible root-causes of problems, in particular the legal framework, the public policies and the relevant institutions and actors, as well as the way the place of detention is managed and administrated.
The NPM's internal organisation was also analyzed in regard to its impact on the ability to effectively fulfill its preventive mandate. It is essential for NPMs to adopt an internal structure that is clear and transparent. It is important for NPM to adopt clear internal policies, appropriate division of tasks, a definition of roles, responsibilities and decision-making processes, specific internal rules and administrative and financial procedures.
Outcome Document: The Dakar Plan of Action
The deliberations of the Conference led to the adoption of a set of substantive and technical recommendations, so called “The Dakar Plan of Action: 8 points Plan for Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa” (Dakar Plan of Action) which recall the universal prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as well as the need and obligation to prevent. The “Dakar Plan of Action” can serve as a road map to guide States in the setting up and functioning of NPMs. These recommendations can also be used as a tool for advocacy and dialogue by national, regional and international actors including within political and economic sub-regional institutions.
Consultative Meeting on the CPTA
At the margin of the Conference, the APT and the ACHPR organized a consultative meeting on the Committee for the prevention of Torture in Africa (CPTA). It allowed African experts to discuss about interaction between the Robben Island Guidelines and the OPCAT with the aim of identifying the role of the CPTA in the ratification and the implementation of the OPCAT in Africa in the line of the Dakar Conference.
The participants made a series of recommendations for the effective implementation of the Robben Island Guidelines and the prevention of torture in Africa in general.
Results of the Conference
The Dakar Conference and the consultative meeting allowed an exchange of experiences and identification of good practices in prevention of torture. On one hand, they established synergies between the various national actors in regard to the ratification and the implementation of the OPCAT in Africa. On the other hand, they highlighted the contribution of regional and international actors in prevention of torture.
Follow-up to the Conference
The conference proceedings have been published, to serve as a reference tool to NPMs and other actors operating in the field of human rights.
For any question or need of further information, please contact:
Jean Baptiste Niyizurugero,
APT Africa Programme Officer
Phone: +41 22 919 21 70