Partnerships for torture prevention in the Southern Cone

Friday, August 23, 2013

The countries in the Southern Cone – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay – have important challenges in common when it comes to preventing torture and ill-treatment. On August 14-16, the Ombudsman’s Office (Procuración Penitenciaria de la Nación) of Argentina, together with the APT, gathered torture prevention actors for a conference in Buenos Aires to share best practices and strengthen partnerships in the sub-region.

The conference was organised under the auspices of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (regional office for South America), the MERCOSUR Institute on Public Policies on Human Rights and the Defensoría General de la Nación of Argentina. The event gathered government officials and representatives from international human rights bodies, civil society, national human rights institutions and national and local preventive mechanisms from the seven countries in the Southern Cone.

Participants reaffirmed the importance of cooperation among the different actors, in the spirit of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

“The OPCAT is a living instrument and it is important to see how it can be implemented in the Southern Cone. By working together, we can find ways to prevent torture”, emphasized APT's Secretary General Mark Thomson, during the opening session of the event.

Buenos Aires Declaration

At the end of the conference, the participants adopted the Buenos Aires Declaration (also available in Portuguese). The Declaration identifies the main challenges for the prevention of torture in the Southern Cone: the high level of impunity, social legitimisation of torture, punitive culture, discrimination towards groups in situations of vulnerability, the lack of effective internal and external monitoring of places of deprivation of liberty and a crisis of the penitentiary systems.

The Declaration also highlights the importance of strengthening cooperation among all bodies and institutions working on torture prevention and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In particular, it stresses the need to take actions in order to fight against impunity, raise public awareness on the absolute prohibition of torture, implement safeguards for the protection of fundamental rights of persons deprived of their liberty and their relatives, and guarantee that all persons who work with persons deprived of their liberty are professionally and properly trained. Furthermore, the Declaration calls for the creation of effective and independent national and local torture prevention mechanisms, in conformity with the OPCAT.

Local preventive mechanisms

In the context of the recent enactment of federal laws creating national systems of torture prevention in Argentina and Brazil, the third day was dedicated to exchanging experiences among actors from both countries with members of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture. Members of five local preventive mechanisms and representatives of twelve other Brazilian States and Argentinian provinces involved in local processes to establish a mechanism gathered for the first time to share their experiences on OPCAT implementation at the local level. The participants identified the main challenges for creating local mechanisms and discussed how to advocate for their effective establishment, guarantee functional and financial independence, and steps needed for national torture prevention systems to become operational in both countries. Many participants asked for the creation of an online platform with relevant information, technical tools and material available for all actors.

The contributions of all participants during the three-day conference will be published in a final report. For more information, see the following background documents: