Demystifying the OPCAT in Mongolia

Thursday, November 7, 2013

During the last week of October the APT participated in a series of high-profile activities in Ulaanbaatar aimed at throwing light on what Mongolia’s future ratification of the OPCAT will mean in practice.

Encouragingly, the country signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture as recently as 24 September and its ratification is expected to take place in spring 2014. The imminence of the entry into force of the instrument raises various important questions, not least its impact on law enforcement officials and various heads of detention.

On 31 October the APT was invited to address this very question to two large, albeit diverse audiences in Ulaanbaatar. The first comprised some 200 law enforcement personnel, representing the country’s six main police directorates at a meeting convened by the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia. Although a primary focus of the exchange was to discuss cooperation between the Commission and the police with a view to combating torture, the APT was given the welcome opportunity to explain how the future Mongolian NPM might impact on their work.

The APT also co-sponsored an event with the National Human Rights Commission, Asia-Pacific Forum (APF) and Open Society Foundations (OSF), which discussed this matter with the heads of a range of less typical places of detention. These included psychiatric institutions, care homes for persons with intellectual and physical disabilities, orphanages, homes for the elderly and sobering-up centres. For many of the directors, this was the first time they had come face to face with the OPCAT and were informed of the prospect that they might be visited by the country’s future NPM. Unanimously, the participants appeared to welcome this possibility as a way of raising standards and preventing potential abuses taking place.

As the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia is likely to be the country’s future NPM, the APT and its partners, APF and OSF, also spent three days conducting a detention monitoring/strategic planning training for the institution. The co-sponsors invited a representative of the Swiss NPM, Marco Mona, to act as the principal trainer during the event. It is hoped that, as a result of the training, the Commission will be in a stronger position to take on the critically important mandate of NPM.