Venezuela: Civil society debates OPCAT ratification
The APT Office for Latin America participated, via video conference, in the 2nd Convention of Human Rights Commissions "Romulo Gallegos" of the Federation of the Venezuelan Bar Association. The Convention, convened by the University of Margarita (UNIMAR) and its Human Rights Observatory, the Venezuelan Prison Observatory and the National Human Rights Commission, aimed at presenting, analyzing and proposing solutions to human rights related issues of the most vulnerable groups in the country, including among them, the prison population. The event brought together members of the human rights commissions from all the states of the country which allowed for a national debate.
The APT spoke on "The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture - Ratification and National Mechanisms." During the presentation, participants heard about the historical process of development of the concept and drafting of the Optional Protocol, the mandate and powers of the national preventive mechanisms (NPMs). The guidelines issued by the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (UN SPT) were highlighted in regard to the concept of prevention of torture and the establishment and implemenation of NPMs. In addition, emphasis was placed on the mandate of the SPT and its method of work in regard to country visits and cooperative relationship with the MNPs and the States Parties.
Venezuela signed the OPCAT on July 1, 2011. During the review of Venezuela to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), last October, several recommendations were issued regarding the need to improve the conditions under which prisoners live in the Venezuelan prison system. One recommendation which stands out requests the ratification of the OPCAT (by Brazil), as well as the implementation of United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders - the Bangkok Rules (recommended by Thailand). While the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has accepted and supported these recommendations, they were not integrated into the role of voluntary commitments assumed at the end of the Review.
It is expected that the process towards ratification of the OPCAT will move forward and strengthen itself through the increasing promotion and awareness of national actors on this new international instrument and the system of regular visits to places of detention proposed.