UN Experts call for investment in safeguards to prevent torture

Monday, June 26, 2017

Four international experts on torture are calling on governments around the world to honour the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture by investing more in safeguards to prevent torture and ill-treatment. They say that by applying legal and procedural safeguards in the first hours of detention and moving away from coercive investigation techniques, States will uphold essential human rights and promote safe and stable societies.

“Each victim of torture is one victim too many. At a time when State leaders are challenging the absolute prohibition of torture, the best way to combat torture and to achieve a torture free world is to work together to ensure its prevention everywhere,” reads the statement.

Reminding that “there are a number of feasible steps States can take to effectively prevent torture,” the UN experts call on States to:

  • Apply strong safeguards during the first hours of police custody, during which the risk of torture and ill-treatment is significantly greater. This means anyone arrested should have access to a lawyer as well as to an independent medical examination, and a relative should be immediately notified.
  • Move away from accusatory confession-driven interrogation techniques and adopt a specific methodology for conducting ethical investigations based on the principle of the pursuit of truth and giving effect to the presumption of innocence.
  • Allow independent monitoring of all places of deprivation of liberty.

Prevention is not a new concept for UN Member States. 30 years ago, on 26 June 1987, the UN Convention against Torture entered into the force, requiring States to take effective measures to prevent torture. On the same day, the European Convention on the Prevention of Torture was adopted, establishing a Committee empowered to visit any place of detention at any time in any Member State of the Council of Europe. Half of all UN Member States have since accepted an international system of visits to all places of deprivation of liberty under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention (OPCAT).

But the concept of torture prevention recently gained new momentum with the publication, in 2016, of the independent research study commissioned by APT, “Does Torture Prevention Work?” Looking at 16 countries over a 30-year period of time, the research found that detention safeguards, when applied in practice, are the most efficient means to prevent torture.

To read the statement, please click here.

The statement is also available in Arabic, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.