Annual Report 2020: Preventing torture and ill-treatment during COVID-19

Thursday, April 29, 2021

2020 was a year of unprecedented challenges. COVID-19 highlighted structural issues and vulnerabilities in places of detention but also, in certain countries, ill-treatment in the enforcement of lockdowns and other restrictive measures.

And the repressive responses to public demonstrations and civil movements in different parts of the world showed the continuing relevance of the APT’s vision for societies without torture and ill-treatment.

“Our new Strategic Plan 2020-2023 responds to these risks by working for fair criminal justice systems, protection for persons in situation of vulnerabilities, strong oversight of detention and raising more voices against torture,” APT Secretary General Barbara Bernath said in our 2020 Annual Report.

The APT’s primary focus in 2020 was to support National Preventive Mechanisms and other oversight bodies continue their monitoring work during the pandemic.

We helped them develop new ways of working by organising consultations, facilitating peer exchanges and providing expert advice, including preparing Practical Guidance on Monitoring Places of Detention During COVID-19, in partnership with OSCE-ODIHR.

We sought to contribute to fair criminal justice systems by strengthening legal and procedural safeguards during the first hours of detention. During 2020, we implemented the final phase of a three-year project to support the work of partners in Thailand, Madagascar and Brazil.

We worked to increase attention on the specific needs of persons in situations of vulnerability and strengthen protection of their rights across the criminal justice system. To mark the 10th anniversary of the UN Bangkok Rules, we launched a year-long campaign on women and prison.

We also developed new approaches to communication that seek to mobilise, equip and support our partners, as well as engage with new audiences, such as sharing stories that showcase the courageous work of detention monitoring teams during the pandemic.

In 2020, the APT continued a process of organisational transformation, with agility our core principle. “The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated our transformation. We were able to respond quickly and strategically to the challenges posed by the pandemic and support our partners,” APT Deputy Secretary General Audrey Olivier Muralt said.