Over the past several years, APT’s work in Madagascar has focused primarily on our cooperation with the National Police and the implementation of safeguards in the first hours of custody.
While this important work with the police continues, as part of our holistic approach to torture prevention in the country, we recently took the opportunity to begin working with the National Human Rights Commission on the implementation of their NPM mandate – as documented in this photo essay.
Many NHRIs as NPM face shared challenges. For this first capacity building workshop with the Madagascan NPM we focused on their internal organisation as an institution, how to work strategically, and also on the basics of detention monitoring. We also invited Michel Vieillesse, Member of the Mauritius National Preventive Mechanism, to share his experiences with Madagascan partners. This included on monitoring itself, as well as the challenges and opportunities related to different NPM structures within an NHRI. While many staff and members of the Commission had experience visiting places of deprivation of liberty already – one of the reasons why many NHRIs are designated as NPMs – our joint visit to a local prison was an opportunity for them to learn about the full scope of an NPM’s preventive mandate and the understanding that NPMs seek of every aspect of detention – including as shown here, the issue of family visits. A good practice during interviews in detention is for one person to speak and for a second team member to take notes and keep track of the issues that need to be covered. This enables the primary interviewer to stay present with the interviewee – maintaining eye contact and building an environment of trust and confidence, without being distracted by the need to take notes at the same time.
Detainees have a right to health care of at least the same standard as that in the community. The increased burden of disease due to the concentration of marginalised and vulnerable groups in prisons usually means that additional resources are needed. In practice, however, healthcare in detention often does not meet this standard – which is why it is often a key area of focus for NPMs during their monitoring work. Triangulation is a key skill for NPMs. In practice this means gathering information from a range of different sources, including interviews, observations and registers and documents, and comparing it to get a better understanding of what is happening in detention. Each detention visit usually involves several moments each day where NPM teams meet together to discuss what they have found from different sources – thus making triangulation a constant and ongoing process. Visiting a place of deprivation of liberty can also be a psychological burden for monitors – particularly in the case of long visits or visits to places with particularly difficult conditions or treatment. In our capacity-building work with NPMs we thus also cover how NPMs can practice self-care and make sure that their teams are resilient and able to carry out their important work over the long term.