Strengthening safeguards essential to reduce torture in the first hours of police detention

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

On 10-11 May 2017, the APT organised an international conference with judges, prosecutors, lawyers, police and other experts to explore how safeguards should be understood and implemented to be more effective in the prevention of torture. The experts from 11 different countries examined the essential measures that have been proven significant in the reduction of the risk of torture.

Key safeguards examined by experts included prompt access to a lawyer, communication with family or third person, access to a doctor, notification of rights, judicial oversight, audio and video recording of interrogations, among others. The experts were asked to carefully analyse each safeguard, expose critical elements for prevention, and advise how it should be implemented to better protect persons in custody from the risk of police abuse.

“How safeguards work in practice is critical in understanding how they can be designed to tackle torture,” explains Matthew Sands, Leal Advisor at the APT. “The symposium experts shared positive examples which can guide the implementation of key safeguards against torture in other States to more effectively reduce ill-treatment and torture in police detention.”

The idea of convening a symposium on detention safeguards built on an independent global research, commissioned by APT in 2012, which confirmed that, “independently of the broader political factors, detention safeguards have the highest torture prevention impact, followed by prosecution and monitoring mechanisms.”

As an example of how a country can implement changes in practice, the Republic of Fiji, recognising the importance of these key safeguards, recently agreed to continue and expand a pilot project they undertook with APT support in November 2016 to assist the reform of police procedures and practices. The pilot addresses two fundamental areas related to early access to justice: the rights of a person arrested when detained by the police (or "first-hour procedure") and the processes and rights during the police interview (through "video-recorded interviews").

A report of the Symposium will be published in the coming months, which will seek to support States in understanding and implementing key safeguards against torture, as requested by the United Nations Human Rights Council in its 31/31 Resolution: Safeguards to prevent torture during police custody and pre-trial detention, which:

  • “Urges States to adopt, implement and comply fully with legal and procedural safeguards against torture [and other forms of ill-treatment], and to ensure that the judiciary […] can effectively ensure compliance with such standards;” (para. 4)
  • “Stresses that effective legal and procedural safeguards […] include ensuring that any individual arrested or detained on a criminal charge is brought promptly before a judge or other independent judicial officer, and permitting prompt and regular medical care and legal counsel at any stage of detention and visits by family members.” (para. 5)

To have a look at the agenda at the 10-11 May 2017 Detention Safeguards Symposium, please click here

Read the full 24 March 2016 HRC Res 31/31 : safeguards to prevent torture during police custody and pre-trial detention