Furthering the Prevention of Torture in Africa

Thursday, December 17, 2009

At the initiative of the APT, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), during its 46th ordinary session held in Banjul, The Gambia, from 11 to 25 November 2009, adopted the Resolution on the change of name of the 'Robben Island Guidelines Follow-up Committee' to the 'Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa' (CPTA) and the reappointment of the Chairperson and Members of the Committee.

The APT, being at the origin of the Robben Island Guidelines for the Prevention of Torture in Africa and mindful of the difficulty of national, regional and international stakeholders and partners in associating the name 'Robben Island Guidelines Follow-Up Committee' with its combating of torture mandate, advocated for this change of name in order to improve the Committee's visibility and impact on the continent.

The new name is expected to properly situate the torture prevention mandate of the Committee in the mind of stakeholders what will subsequently facilitate concerned actors including victims of torture to 'use' this mechanism and to provide it with information. Furthermore, the change of name will facilitate cooperation between the Committee and other regional and international human rights bodies mandated to combat and prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment such as the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the UN Sub-Committee on Prevention of Torture (SPT). This new dynamic of the Committee will also facilitate its interaction with emerging African national preventive mechanisms (NPMs) that are to be established in the frame work of the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

The Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa (The Robben Island Guidelines) constitute the first specific instrument to fight against torture and ill-treatment in Africa. It was was initiated by the APT and adopted by the ACHPR in October 2002. The APT had proposed to the ACHPR, during its 28th session (October 2000), to consider providing African States with a tool that would assist them to meet their national, regional and international obligations to prevent torture for the effective enforcement and implementation of the universally recognized prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Robben Island Guidelines (RIG) were then drafted during a joint APT/ACHPR workshop, which was organized in February 2002, on Robben Island, a symbolic place in South Africa, as it is the island where Nelson Mandela and other freedom fighters against the Apartheid regime were detained for years.

The adoption of the Robben Island Guidelines marked a historic step forward in the prevention of torture on the African continent. Now, the birth of the CPTA constitutes a further step towards effective prevention of torture in Africa. It needs now support and cooperation with all relevant stakeholders for effective functioning and contribution to the enjoyment for every individual of the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.


Contact Person: Jean-Baptiste Niyizurugero, APT Africa Programme Officer


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The newly appointed Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of the CPTA, respectively Mrs. Dupe Atoki (right), Commissioner of the ACHPR and Mr. Jean-Baptiste Niyizurugero (left), APT Africa Programme Officer


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The APT Africa Programme Officer, Mr. Jean-Baptiste Niyizurugero (left), with the Outgoing Chairperson of the ACHPR, Mr. Bahame Tom Nyanduga (right), at the 46th session of the ACHPR, in Banjul, The Gambia, November 2009