Deprivation of liberty, which is characterised by an imbalance of power between representatives of the authority and detainees, results in risks of all types of abuse, including ill-treatment and torture. These risks are further heightened because of the closed and isolated nature of places of detention. Internal and external oversight is necessary in order to reduce the opacity typical of places of deprivation of liberty as well as to guarantee respect for prisoners’ rights and to force authorities to be accountable.
Forms of oversight can vary from one situation to another. There are two types of monitoring:
1) Internal inspections, conducted by departments managed by the administrative authority or the ministry in charge of places of detention. These departments should have the material means and sufficient autonomy to successfully carry out their inspections.
2) External monitoring, conducted by various entities with very different mandates: preventive visits mechanism set up under treaties (the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture or regional mechanisms), inspections by the judiciary, visits by MPs or parliamentary committees, civil society organizations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, monitoring commissions etc.