Argentina: National mechanism to prevent torture finally established!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

During one of the last sessions of the year, Argentinean parliamentarians confirmed the designation of the last six members of the future National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), the National Committee to Prevent Torture (NCPT). With this final vote, all the 13 members are now selected and appointed, a decision that had been pending for the past three years.

Argentina was one of the first States to ratify the OPCAT in 2004, but it only adopted the law establishing the National System to Prevent Torture in late 2012. In April 2014, the Decree regulating the establishment of the National System was finally issued, enabling to start the selection process of the National Committee to Prevent Torture (NCPT). During the past three years, several UN and regional expert bodies urged Argentina to deliver on its commitment acquired with the ratification of the torture prevention treaty. National civil society organisations and the APT called on relentlessly for the prompt establishment of the NCPT, in order to bring about changes in appalling detention conditions and practices.

The NCPT is composed of 13 members:

  • 6 parliamentary representatives;
  • the Ombudsperson for Federal Prisons;
  • 2 representatives from the Local Preventive Mechanisms (LPMs);
  • 3 representatives from civil society organisations; and
  • 1 representative from the Human Rights Secretariat of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.

The parliamentary vote that took place on 20 December 2017 is thus very welcome news, and puts a final end to a selection process initiated in April 2017. Over the past year, the APT advocated for the selection of independent and qualified members, including during a parliamentary hearing in June 2017.

The establishment of the NCPT triggers the effective implementation of the whole National System to Prevent Torture. It is expected that the Federal Council of Local Preventive Mechanisms shall be established very soon, and that more local preventive mechanisms will be created or designated in the pending provinces, contributing to a greater coverage of places of detention across Argentina. The installation of a new institution also bears its own challenges – including securing a budget, qualified staff, building a collective identity and ensuring access to all places of detention, information and persons. However, these obstacles are not insurmountable and the NCPT will benefit for a wide support from national and international organisations which have pledged for its establishment over the past years.