Need for continuous OSCE focus on torture prevention

Thursday, November 27, 2014

In December 2014 Switzerland will conclude its chairpersonship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). During a politically turbulent year, marked by the crisis in Ukraine, Switzerland has managed to sustain its focus on torture prevention.

During 2014, Switzerland made torture prevention a high-standing item on the OSCE agenda, as part of its overall priority of “improving people’s lives”. Torture prevention was both addressed at a high-level Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting of OSCE participating States in Vienna, on 10-11 April 2014, and discussed as a standing agenda item at the following Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw from 22 September to 3 October. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly adopted on its 23rd annual session a resolution on combating torture, which emphasized the importance of prevention.

Another important forum has been the series of regional civil society workshops organised by the NGO coalition, Civic Solidarity Platform, with support of the Swiss Chairpersonship in Belgrade, Vienna, Dushanbe and Tbilisi. Civil society recommendations on key issues, including torture prevention, from these workshops will now be consolidated and adopted as an outcome document at the Parallel Civil Society Conference in Basel in December.

Strategic partnership

As a strategic partner to the Swiss Chairpersonship, the APT co-organised a meeting in Vienna in April, where National Preventive Mechanisms from the OSCE region exchanged experiences and practices and came up with key recommendations to the OSCE.

Later during the year, as a side event to the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, we organised a working breakfast to raise awareness on the impact of cultures of policing on torture prevention. The event featured interventions from several speakers involved in torture prevention in the region, including a civil society representative from Tajikistan, a human rights expert working with the Austrian National Preventive Mechanism, and two relevant OSCE institutions, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Strategic Police Matters Unit (SPMU).

Draft decision on torture prevention

The APT is encouraged to see that the OSCE has positioned itself as a leading organisation on torture prevention in Europe. With its significant field presence, its diversity of institutions and its broad mandate, the OSCE is well placed to further advance torture prevention in the region. It can for example take on a coordination role and facilitate regular exchanges between National Preventive Mechanisms and other actors.

We further welcome and strongly support the Swiss announcement of a draft decision on torture prevention, to be discussed and hopefully adopted at the upcoming OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Basel in December.

It is crucial that this year’s momentum now brings about concrete outcomes to ensure that torture prevention is efficiently addressed in the OSCE region in future. The creation of a torture prevention focal point at ODIHR would be one such action, which would allow for further coordination of stakeholders and exchange of best practices throughout the OSCE region – including between National Preventive Mechanisms. Building on this years’ achievement, the APT hopes that the current torture prevention focus will be further strengthened under the coming Chairpersonships of the OSCE.

Staff members