Making better use of EU Guidelines to combat torture

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The EU’s Working Party on Human Rights (COHOM) agreed in May 2011 to a revision of the "Guidelines to European Union policy towards third countries on torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". COHOM’s announcement constitutes a natural and welcome development since the latest revision dated back to 2007. The EU guidelines on torture currently constitute one of the main resources for the EU to support the fight against torture globally.

Numerous initiatives have been taken by the EU, member states, and civil society actors to implement those Guidelines which have contributed to positive developments in all world regions. The integration of EU guidelines as priority components of EU human rights country strategies is a welcome development. However, past evaluations of the Guidelines have highlighted the need to strengthen implementation measures for the guidelines, as well as monitoring and evaluation of those measures. The APT, alongside fellow anti-torture NGOs, has written to the EU to suggest priority areas for the revision of the EU guidelines on torture as well as the establishment of new human rights country strategies.

The global landscape has considerably evolved since the last revision process four years ago. It is imperative that these new developments be reflected in the revised EU Guidelines. As of September 2011, 60 countries worldwide have chosen to invest in the innovative system of prevention provided by the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT). New domestic bodies have been established in more than thirty countries, often in difficult circumstances. EU support to these new processes, both at the policy and financial levels, has often been ad hoc and needs to be framed in a properly articulated strategy, and well coordinated with recommendations from relevant international and regional bodies. The ongoing revision process of the EU Guidelines provides an ideal means to do so. Finally, the EU must send a strong signal that the need for security cannot be implemented to the detriment of human rights, and that a zero tolerance policy will be applied to all attempts to justify the use of torture.

Relevant documents:

APT recommendations on the revision of the EU Guidelines on torture, July 2011

"EU human rights country strategies and EU Guidelines on torture" Joint letter from Amnesty International, APT, FIACAT, IRCT, and OMCT to the EU