Chile takes historic step on National Preventive Mechanism

Monday, June 12, 2017

During APT’s visit to Chile on 29 and 30 May, President Bachelet signed the bill to establish an effective and independent National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) for Chile. The long-awaited bill was sent to Congress on 29 May and is currently being examined by both the Commissions of Human Rights and Budget. The law foresees that Chile’s National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) will perform the NPM’s mandate through a Committee for the Prevention of Torture composed of at least nine experts.

“We welcome the historic step taken by the Chilean government to move forward with the adoption of the NPM bill, which we hope will be enacted ahead of Chile’s examination before the Committee against Torture in May 2018,” said APT’s Secretary General, Mark Thomson, upon his return. “We also leave confident that the parliamentary discussions will be both open and transparent, and leave space for the NHRI and civil society organisations to express their views regarding the implementation of the NPM mandate.”

An independent and effective NPM is crucial to eradicate the practice of torture

During their visit to Chile, the APT Delegation met with President Bachelet and several members of the Government – including the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, the Vice Ministers of Justice, Human Rights, Foreign Affairs and Public Health – as well as the President of the Legislative Assembly’s Human Rights Commission and key parliamentarians, who ensured them about their commitment to adopt the NPM bill.

APT’s visit took place in a complicated context as several cases of torture and ill-treatment were recently denounced by Chile’s NHRI – the National Institute for Human Rights – a situation which calls attention to the pressing need to have an operational NPM in the country. To this aim, the APT Delegation stressed the importance that the new legislation be compliant with the requirements of the Optional Protocol on the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in terms of independence, powers and funding, as with the recommendations from international bodies, in particular the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) following its visit to Chile in April 2016. The APT also held working meetings with the NHRI, members of the judiciary and civil society organisations, to discuss the provisions of the NPM bill in more detail.

Yes, torture prevention can work in Chile

APT visited Chile to promote the recent results of the independent research it commissioned to determine the effectiveness of torture prevention measures worldwide, as Chile is one of the 16 countries examined in the study. Together with the NHRI, the APT organised a roundtable on the extent to which torture prevention could contribute to reducing the risk of torture in the country. The panel was composed of APT’s Secretary General, Mark Thomson; international expert on torture-related issues, Wilder Tayler; local researcher, Magdalena Garcés; the NHRI Director, Branislav Marelic; and the Appeals Court Judge from Valparaiso, Silvana Donoso.

The NHRI Director presented the measures recently adopted to reduce the risk of torture in the country. These include the recent criminalisation of torture; the reform of the military justice system; and the new NPM bill. The research had identified the lack of these measures as major obstacles to torture prevention in Chile.

While recognising the several challenges remaining to successfully prevent torture in the country – including a big gap between law and practice, as well as a pressing need for further education of all actors involved – the outcomes of APT’s visit were very encouraging. As Silvana Donoso concluded, “Fundamental safeguards are important to prevent torture and ill-treatment in detention; and it is our responsibility to do more to make it work!” With the main issues identified and the political will to resolve them, Chile should be on the right track to reduce the risk of torture in the country.

Staff members