One voice, multiples actions to prevent torture

Thursday, January 5, 2012

More than 40 participants from 14 different African countries representing various sectors of society have contributed to the success of the OPCAT Global Forum by undertaking a critical reflection on 'what Africa should do to make the OPCAT system work'.


The OPCAT Global Forum has provided a unique framework to regional and cross–regional exchanges on the issue of prevention of torture. For African participants, it has been a great opportunity to see what other regions have achieved so far and to reflect on what African countries can do for a more effective prevention of torture.

"The Global Forum was very rich in learning and exchanges with participants. We left motivated and more committed than ever to work for a successful implementation of the OPCAT both at national and international levels" (Seydi Gassama, Executive Director Amnesty International Senegal).

Experience sharing and constructive exchanges have been at the core of the space which was devoted to Africa. The regional strategic consultative meeting first, the Global Forum thematic sessions and then the regional roundtables have allowed African participants to express themselves, learn from others and envisage ways forward for the effective prevention of torture.

Discussions have pivoted on some key questions:

  • How to ensure that States will ratify with the serious intention of giving effective implementation to the OPCAT afterwards?
  • How to ensure that African National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) are sufficiently independent and resourced to carry out their mandate?
  • How to promote more cooperation between African NPMs, the Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Torture (SPT) and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa (CPTA)?
  • How to develop and implement more inclusive strategies at national level?

Thanks to a lively interaction between different countries but also with regional and international actors like the CPTA, the SPT and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, some urgent concerns for Africa were identified. These include the lack of political will to implement the OPCAT, the structural problems of African NPMs, the weak action of the SPT and particularly in regard to NPM advice and support, the need to strengthen the role of civil society. The inclusion of a number of prevalent issues that may involve deprivation of liberty but do not currently feature sufficiently in torture prevention work (for example internal displacement, statelessness, refugees, asylum seekers and immigration detention as well as community based forms of deprivation of liberty) was also raised.

The main outcome of this exceptional gathering was the commitment of participants to strengthen their efforts in following some common ways forward, both at individual as well at institutional level. In particular, participants have decided to prioritize:

  • the establishment of inclusive national coalition groups involving key actors such as parliamentarians and the media that can make ratification campaigns and implementation advocacy actions more powerful.
  • the establishment of effective NPMs and support to the existing ones through a coordinated action;
  • the promotion of the SPT leadership in supporting NPMs but also its cooperation with civil society organizations;
  • the promotion of a more concrete and effective regional cooperation, including the idea of setting up a regional network on the prevention of torture.