A New NPM Makes Progress in West Africa

Thursday, January 23, 2020

During a week of events to mark the 2019 UN Human Rights Day, the APT was in Togo to work with both civil society and the newly formed national preventive mechanism (NPM).

Following revisions to the law on the National Human Rights Commission, nine new full-time members were appointed in April 2019, including three who lead the sub-commission on prevention of torture.

Mr. Ohini Kwao Didi Sanvee, President of the Togolese NPM. Image: Ben Buckland, APT.
Mr. Ohini Kwao Didi Sanvee, President of the Togolese NPM. Image: Ben Buckland, APT.

As part of a project funded by the City of Geneva, APT conducted a three-day workshop with the NPM in the regional city of Atakpame on detention monitoring. The workshop used materials developed as part of the soon to be launched “NPM Toolkit” to increase the NPM’s capacity to plan, conduct and follow-up on visits to detention.

The workshop included a one day visit to the prison in Atakpame, where the NPM was able to examine the severe levels of overcrowding, as well as reflect on its own working methods and how best to use such visits to change treatment and conditions in detention across the country.

As one member of the NPM remarked, “we learned an enormous amount about how to conduct a prison visit and how to use the information gathered in our reports.”

The workshop followed a series of activities with the NPM in 2019, including two regional events with other African NPMs and another in-country workshop on how to integrate the NPM mandate, involving the entire institution and its regional offices.

On the first day of the mission, the APT also held a workshop for civil society organisations on the new NPM and the different ways in which they can work with and alongside it in the future.

As Commissioner ATITSO Afi, president of the promotion and protection of human rights subcommittee of the Commission, noted during the opening of the session: “Do not think that human rights are abstract texts. Everyone … must be able to work for the promotion and protection of human rights and also, for the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."

“This is a new institution but it has already made enormous progress. It joins a new wave of NPMs on the continent that now have a chance to make real change”, noted APT’s Ben Buckland. “Now is the time to support these institutions. To ensure that they live up to the promise of OPCAT and to show others in the region what prevention can do.”