Bridging the gap between anti-discrimination and torture prevention in the OSCE

Friday, October 9, 2015

Some groups and individuals face specific risks of discrimination, ill-treatment, or even torture when they are deprived of their liberty - because of for example their age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, or health status. How can the OSCE ensure that their rights are better protected? And how can this be more closely linked to the organisation’s work on anti-discrimination?

The APT has repeatedly emphasized the need for the OSCE to expand its  work on protecting people in specific situations of vulnerability in detention. This year we put the issue on the agenda of the 2015 Human Dimension and Implementation Meeting, organised by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Warsaw in September. In an oral statement, APT’s representative stressed that those who are subject to discrimination and marginalization in society in general also face higher risks of torture and ill-treatment when detained. The OSCE should therefore advance the protection of individuals and groups in situations of vulnerability in detention, by creating closer links between its work on torture prevention and on anti-discrimination.

To further discuss this issue, the APT organised a side event on 24 September. The panel included representatives of two National Preventive Mechanisms, from Norway and Ukraine, the OSCE Contact Point on Roma and Sinti issues, and APT’s Detention Adviser.

Following their introduction of standards, practices and challenges met in the OSCE region, on the basis of their practical experiences, a discussion took place on how to improve existing practices and encourage the needed synergies between anti-discrimination and torture prevention actors, so that those facing specific risks when detained are better protected. The following points were raised as some of the most urgent and necessary steps:

  • Strengthening documentation and analysis of the issues specific individuals or groups face in situations of deprivation of liberty, notably by encouraging the collection of relevant baseline data.
  • Raising the awareness of detaining authorities, detention monitors and other key stakeholders on the specific vulnerabilities and needs of some groups in detention, as well as on the standards and measures providing them with protection.
  • Supporting the development and implementation of preventive measures to protect the most vulnerable detainees, including through the implementation of all existing standards when available.
  • Supporting the development of preventive detention monitoring methodologies which address these specific vulnerabilities and risks.

Last year, 17 National Preventive Mechanisms from the region had also recommended that OSCE participating States and OSCE/ODIHR take this specific matter into account, for more effective protection of persons deprived of their liberty. The APT hopes that its side event has contributed to creating the momentum needed to foster innovative and effective work of the OSCE on the issue of vulnerabilities in detention.

Watch the presentations from the side event:

Jean-Sébastien Blanc, Detention Adviser, APT: Protecting groups and individuals in situations of vulnerability in detention.

Idaver Memedov, OSCE Contact Point for Roma & Sinti Issues: Current Challenges in the relations between police and Roma and Sinti Communities in the OSCE area.

Helga Fastrup-Ervik, Head of the Norwegian NPM: Experiences of gender-sensitive detention monitoring.


Yuriy Belousov, Head of the Ukrainian NPM: Children deprived of their liberty.