UN torture prevention body focusing increasingly on NPMs

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The recently published annual report of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture clearly shows that in 2013 the SPT paid greater attention to National Preventive Mechanisms -  the “front line of torture prevention”, as the SPT Chairperson referred to them in his statement to the UN General Assembly in October 2013

Throughout 2013, the SPT continued to strengthen its engagement with the States Parties to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) and NPMs through a variety of actions, including:

  • increased number of visits (full visits, follow-up visits and NPM advisory visits)
  • meetings with States Parties and NPMs during its sessions
  • work in regional teams
  • confidential written response to the replies received to visits reports

In 2013, the SPT carried out full visits to New Zealand, Peru and Gabon, a follow-up visit to Cambodia and so called NPM advisory visits to Germany and Armenia.  It received an increased number of replies to its visit reports by States and NPMs. The SPT had also the opportunity to further engage with both States and NPMs by participating in in-country meetings organised by a range of different actors, including the APT.  

The practice of undertaking NPM advisory visits, introduced in 2012, was consolidated in 2013 and proved to be key in order to work more closely with NPMs and to provide advice to States and NPMs in other contexts. Building on this successful experience, the SPT decided to undertake a new kind of visits in 2014, called “OPCAT advisory visits”. These will be short visits focused on assisting the authorities in complying with the Optional protocol, especially in establishing their NPM.

Engagement during SPT sessions

During its sessions, the SPT met with representatives of Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Sweden, Benin, Guatemala, Tunisia and Turkey on the designation of the NPM. It also met with representatives of the NPMs from the United Kingdom and Kyrgyzstan to learn more about their work and to exchange information.

Work in regional teams and working groups

The SPT’s increasing work in regional teams and thematic working groups was considered as a positive practice, as it facilitated a more dynamic and responsive work, in-depth and inclusive discussions and a better use of the SPT members’ expertise.

The annual report further develops specific issues regarding the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and on reprisals. The SPT welcomes comments from other actors, in order to finalise its work and publish its position papers on those issues. It also elaborates on the issue of corruption and its relationship with prevention of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

Finally, in its report, the SPT calls for increased resources to be able to fully implement its preventive mandate under the OPCAT.