Senegalese torture prevention body seeks national dialogue

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Senegalese National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), in cooperation with the APT and Amnesty International Senegal, is convening a national consultation on the functioning of the new institution, the National Observatory of places of deprivation of liberty, almost one year after its official establishment.

On 5 December 2012, upon invitation of Mr. Boubou Diouf Tall, Head of the Senegalese NPM, relevant stakeholders will gather in Dakar to discuss challenges and perspectives to the work of the National Observatory of places of deprivation of liberty. 

It is important to make the institution known by all relevant authorities and services at its early stage. It is important to build a trustful relationship from the beginning and also to convince detaining authorities about the preventive approach of the NPM”. This was the advice of Jean Marie Delarue, Head of the French NPM, to his Senegalese counterpart when Mr. Tall visited France in July 2012.

Following these recommendations, the national consultation aims at setting the basis for a cooperative dialogue with relevant stakeholders, which would help the Observatory to face its challenges and to raise awareness and transparency around the guiding principles of the National Observatory as well as around the obligations of the State authorities. It is expected that participants will discuss the main torture related issues in Senegal and the ways to establish a cooperative dialogue. 

SPT assistance to the NPM

The national consultation will also be an occasion to raise awareness around the role and the functioning of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) and, in particular, around its visit to Senegal from 10 to 13 December 2012. The main objective of the visit is to provide advice and technical assistance to the NPM. It is hoped that the national consultation will contribute to a cooperative dialogue between the SPT and national stakeholders and that it will help the NPM to identify issues to which the SPT could bring an added value.

Even if the National Observatory has been established by a national legislation which encompasses all the key elements set out by the OPCAT, such as the independence, the composition, the funding and the immunities for the NPM members, much more is needed for it to become fully operational and effective. The implementation of this legal basis is particularly challenging when a new specialized institution is created to carry out the NPM mandate, as in Senegal. The new institution not only has to develop its own internal structure, working methods, plan of activities, etc. but it has also to build legitimacy and gain the trust of relevant stakeholders.

High expectations

Moreover, the Senegalese NPM is the only example in Africa of a new NPM designated through an inclusive and participatory process. This means that there is no other experience in the region that Senegal could look at as good practice. Many regional and international actors have expectations on the Senegalese NPM, hoping that it will become the first fully operational and effective African NPM. Given the historical commitment of Senegal in promoting human rights and its influence in the region, it is hoped that its leading role in the NPM establishment process could have an impact on other national process of this kind in Africa.