Fruitful year for UN’s torture prevention body

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The 2012 annual report of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) marks the end of a six-year cycle since its establishment in February 2007.

The past year was a fruitful one for the SPT, with several achievements:

  • Increase in the number of visits undertaken
  • Inauguration of the NPM advisory visits
  • First grants of the OPCAT Special Fund
  • Greater use of working groups and regional NPM tasks forces
  • More replies to visit reports

The SPT further strengthened its engagement with States Parties and NPMs, during its sessions in Geneva and during in-country activities. The SPT met with representatives from Chile, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, the African States Parties, Cambodia and Guatemala to discuss the NPM establishment processes and they exchanged views on operation challenges and practices with NPM representatives from Spain, Slovenia, France and Ecuador. For the first time, the SPT met with representatives from Mexico and the Mexican NPM to discuss its visit report and the responses from the authorities, during the official SPT session in Geneva.

NPM advisory visits

The main innovation in SPT’s working methods in 2012 was the so called NPM advisory visits – shorter visits of maximum four days with a smaller group of SPT members, focusing on issues related to NPM developments. These visits result in two reports: one addressed to the authorities and another one to the NPM. Both reports are confidential, unless the recipient decides otherwise. Three NPM advisory visits took place in 2012, to Honduras, Moldova and Senegal. Both the Honduras and Moldovan NPMs decided to make the SPT reports public. This new type of visit was one of the key recommendations of the participants of the OPCAT Global Forum (November 2011) and is an effective way of engaging with existing NPMs.

Thematic issues and concerns

The SPT continued to develop specific guidance on thematic issues arising from visits. In 2012, it published a provisional statement on the role of judicial review and due process in the prevention of torture, as well as a summary document on the discussions on amendment to the UN Standard Minimum Rules. According to the annual report, the SPT will soon publish a paper on reprisals, and elaborates on the issue of indigenous justice and prevention of torture.

The SPT expresses – again – its concerns regarding delays and procedural challenges which hinders access to some places of detention and prevents members from spending more time in the place or interviewing detainees.

Finally, the SPT calls for more resources to be able to fully implement its mandate. Their views were published through the means of a statement in the context of the Treaty Body Strengthening Process, encouraging States to take into consideration the very specific nature of SPT’s work and hence, the need for specific resources in order to fully implement its preventive mandate.