African Human Rights Institutions make torture prevention a priority
African National Human Rights Institutions are making torture prevention a priority. At the closing conference of a three-year project between APT and the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI), the 44 participating institutions today adopted the Yaoundé Declaration, outlining concrete actions to prevent torture.
For the last three years, the APT has worked together with NANHRI to strengthen the capacity of African human rights institutions. The project, “A Continent United Against Torture” was launched in Rabat, Morocco in 2011. It has included online and face-to-face training and thematic workshops to address some of the most pressing problems related to torture and ill-treatment in Africa.
To close the project, NANHRI decided to focus its 10th Biennial Conference on the theme of prohibition and prevention of torture. From 21 to 23 October 2015, NHRI representatives from all over the continent met in Yaoundé, Cameroon, to discuss lessons learned from the project, remaining challenges and possible follow-up activities. The project will now be thoroughly evaluated, but the initial outcomes are encouraging. Participating institutions presented examples of improved detention monitoring practices, national projects to train the police and members of the judicary and activities to strengthen the capacity of staff to investigate allegations of torture.
At the end of the conference, participants adopted a 15-point outcome declaration. The Yaoundé Declaration includes a strong commitment from the 44 participating National Institutions to make torture prevention and good administration of justice a strategic priority. This means, among other things, that each institution should appoint a focal point to address issues of torture and to advocate for ratification and implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol. Monitoring places of detention, investigating allegations of torture, training public officials, and reducing the high numbers of pre-trial detainees are also among the concrete actions that NHRIs have committed to, through the Declaration.
Finally, the meeting participants proposed that 25 April each year will be recognised as Pre-Trial Detention Day in Africa.
The conference was organised jointly by NANHRI and the APT and hosted by the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms of Cameroon. We would like to express our gratitude to the European Union for its financial support to the project. We would also like to thank the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Commonwealth and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie for their support to the conference.
The meeting was officially opened by Cameroon's Prime Minister Philemon Yang.