NHRIs committed to playing a decisive role in combating torture

Friday, May 13, 2011

National Human Rights Institutions from the Middle East, North Africa and Europe have committed themselves to play a decisive role in combating torture, in the Berlin Declaration (English - Arabic) published on 13 May 2011. The declaration calls upon all States to implement a range of anti-torture measures, including to establish and maintain effective and independent national preventive mechanisms in accordance with international standards.

This includes one or more independent, national preventive mechanisms according to standards of the OPCAT, and to support its activities with sufficient funding and by allowing unannounced visits to all places of detention with access to all detainees.

This was one of the outcomes of the 6th Arab - European Human Rights Dialogue (AEHRD) meeting, dealing with Torture and Rule of Law, in which the APT participated actively. The meeting was hosted by the German Institute for Human Rights and NHRIs from the following countries were represented: Denmark, Belgium, Tunisia, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco, Jordan, Algeria, Qatar, Palestine, Greece, Norway, Saudi Arabia.

Date: 11 - 13 May 2011
Place: Berlin
Purpose: To exchange experience on the role of NHRIs in torture prevention in general and to promote OPCAT ratification and effective implementation in particular, providing input based on APT’s experience.
Background: The AEHRD process brings together 14 Arab and European NHRIs to discuss human rights issues and come up with a human rights reform agenda for NHRIs to streamline at their respective national level, after building and strengthening the common understanding as well as the implementation of human rights in Arab countries and Europe. AEHRD website.

The dialogue is managed by a quartet of four National Human Rights Institutions: The Danish institute for Human Rights, The German Institute for Human Rights; The National Centre for Human Rights in Jordan and The Moroccan National Human Rights Council.

The APT views NHRIs as key actors in the prevention of torture and has therefore been engaging with NHRIs at the national, regional and international level for several years, for example through a world-wide capacity building project entitled Actors for Change (2005 – 2007), the development of an Operational guide for NHRI on Torture Prevention and the development of policy papers on the role of NHRI in the prevention of torture (English - French - Spanish) and NHRIs as NPMs.

This was the first dialogue meeting focusing on torture prevention
Activities:
  • APT provided input for the conference agenda and made a presentation on the 'Achievements, gaps and challenges in OPCAT implementation in Europe and Central Asia'.
  • APT provided input for the Berlin declaration.
  • APT’s publications on torture prevention were made available, in particular the Operational Guide for NHRIs.
Outcome:
  • APT stressed in particular the key role that NHRIs can play in torture prevention and the relevance of the OPCAT as a key element in the national protection system.
  • APT hopes that the members of the AEHRD will commit to prioritize torture prevention and identify concrete follow-up measures which they can undertake.
  • The Berlin Declaration - English Arabic
Next Steps: The APT is planning to follow-up on a national level with those institutions that are particularly interested in cooperating with the APT, to continue working with existing partners such as the Moroccan National Council for Human Rights, the Mauritanian National Human Rights Commission and the National Human Rights Committee of Qatar and develop new partnerships with others.
Links: A historical declaration on fighting torture (The Danish Institute for Human Rights)
Contact Person: Esther Schaufelberger, APT MENA Programme Officer