OHCHR highlights role of prevention

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An OHCHR workshop has highlighted the centrality of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights. However many actors remain unclear as  to what prevention means in practice – especially in the national context – limiting their ability to act on this agenda, according to a recently released OHCHR report. The report follows a workshop and survey conducted by OHCHR into the practical and conceptual aspects of prevention of human rights violations, on the request of the Human Rights Council.

Speaking at the workshop, the APT Secretary General highlighted that the fight against torture and other ill-treatment is a field in which the concept of prevention has been developed over the past 30 years. Indeed, the workshop emphasized the fact that the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) could provide a model for a system of prevention of other human rights violations. The OPCAT is the first international treaty aimed exclusively prevention (of torture and other ill-treatment). The strength of the OPCAT is the holistic approach to each states situation, meaning that the root causes of torture and other ill-treatment are addressed, participants said.

The OHCHR report distinguishes between two different types of prevention, also used by the APT:

  • Direct prevention, which is proactive and takes place before torture and other ill-treatment, aims to reduce the risk of it occurring.
  • Indirect prevention, which reacts to cases of torture and other ill-treatment after they occur, aims to prevent re-occurrence through ensuring accountability.

According to the OHCHR’s survey, most actors are focusing on indirect prevention, rather than actions to prevent human rights violations outright. There is therefore a need to further develop an understanding as to the different aspects of prevention, as well as practical tools to guide states and other actors in this field.

The workshop was convened following Human Rights Council resolution 14/5, which tasked OHCHR with looking into the conceptual and practical aspects of prevention, in the protection and promotion of human rights. The workshop also highlighted that the long-term effectiveness of the Human Rights Council will depend on its work on prevention.


Related documents:

OHCHR Report

Human Rights Council resolution 14/5

APT submission to the survey