UN Subcommittee calls on Germany to stop short-changing its NPM

Monday, April 15, 2013

The UN’s torture prevention body, the SPT, calls on the German government to significantly increase the financial and human resources of its domestic monitoring mechanism. Germany’s five part-time NPM Commissioners have responsibility for several thousand places of detention.   

The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture has become the latest expert torture prevention body to censure the German authorities for the parlous state of its NPM. The SPT reached this conclusion in a press release issued at the end of a five-day visit to the country from 8-12 April, which aimed at strengthening Germany’s National Agency for the Prevention of Torture.

In doing so, the SPT joined several other influential bodies which have expressed concern about the NPM’s lack of human and financial resources. With just five part-time Commissioners who are supported by a four-person secretariat, the German NPM has a mandate to cover more than 2300 detention facilities spread through a geographically large European county.

In November 2011 the UN Committee against Torture reached a similar conclusion during its examination of Germany in Geneva, while the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture commented after its 2010 visit to the country that it seriously doubted whether the NPM’s limited resources would enable the NPM to carry out its work effectively throughout the whole of Germany.

The National Agency for the Prevention of Torture has also bemoaned this baleful state of affairs. In its most recent Annual Report it stressed that it was “unable to carry out its statutory task under the Optional Protocol with the staffing and funding available.” The mechanism also added that the lack of resources also had a negative international impact: “Germany, which in international terms is regarded as one of the forerunners in the field of human rights protection, could also serve as a role model to other states with regard to the resources provided to its national preventive mechanism, and should not be taken as a negative example.”

Unfortunately, as the SPT has just revealed, Germany still has a long way to go before it can cite itself as such an example.