APT regrets the passing away of François de Vargas, our first Secretary General

Monday, August 16, 2021

With great sadness, the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) announces that its first Secretary General, François de Vargas, has passed away peacefully on 10 August 2021 in his 83rd year.

François de Vargas was hired in 1977 by Jean-Jacques Gautier, the founder of the APT, to head the Swiss Committee against Torture (which became the APT in 1992) and promote the innovative idea of creating a system of visits to places of detention. Through his commitment, his values and his deep sense of justice, François de Vargas made it possible for prevention to make headway at the international level.

Alongside Jean-Jacques Gautier, and later under the Chairmanship of Hans Haug and Marco Mona, he organised the 1983 conference on torture in Geneva, which later led to the creation of OMCT/SOS Torture and the mandate of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. Most importantly, he supported the drafting and subsequent negotiation of the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture adopted by the Council of Europe in 1987, while continuing efforts towards the adoption of an Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture.

For example, at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993, his advocacy led to the inclusion of a paragraph in the Vienna Declaration calling on States to adopt the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which had been under negotiation since 1992.

During his 18 years at the head of the organisation, François de Vargas also led the transformation of the Swiss Committee against Torture into an international non-governmental organisation under the name of APT, and the creation of a secretariat with recognised expertise. After his departure in 1995, François de Vargas continued his commitment to human rights and remained very active in many associations of which he was a member.

"With the departure of François de Vargas, a chapter in the history of the APT has been turned, as he worked directly with Jean-Jacques Gautier to advance the very idea of prevention of torture on the international scene," said Martine Brunschwig Graf, APT President. "His legacy is immense and we are very grateful for his commitment. He remained a faithful member of the organisation, participating in all general assemblies and continuing his public commitment to a world without torture, in which the dignity and rights of all people, especially people in situations of vulnerability, are respected. He will always be remembered by us and the whole APT”.


Staff members