NPMs may enter into dialogue with authorities at different moments, in relation to visits to places of detention or beyond visits, depending on the specific objective of the dialogue.
Dialogue related to visits to places of deprivation of liberty may take place at different stages. Its timing and process are crucial to maintaining a sustained and constructive relation with the authorities and ensure that recommendations are effectively implemented.
Dialogue between the NPM and the authorities starts already before NPMs start carrying out visits to places of deprivation of liberty, to explain their mandate and inform the authorities about their obligation to provide unrestricted access to the NPMs. NPMs’ experience shows that taking the time to introduce their mandate to the authorities at an early stage can avoid problems during visits.
During the visit, the NPM engages in dialogue both with the authorities in charge of running the place and the staff working there. It is important that NPMs take enough time to conduct the visit, enabling to build a positive relationship with the authorities since the beginning of the visit, to make sure that they are clear about the methodology and objectives of the visit. At the same time, to ensure compliance of the authorities, NPMs need to maintain their independence and project authority and professionalism. To do that, it is important for NPMs to abide by key principles for monitoring places of detention, including being respectful of the authorities in charge of the place and the staff working there, being accurate and objective, and behaving with integrity.
Following the visit, many NPMs send the draft visit report and recommendations confidentially to the authorities. This allows the NPM to receive early feedback and eventually correct any factual errors. It is worth noting that such practice does not mean that authorities would influence the content of the report. It refers to factual information that could be amended, such as the total number of detainees in one place. This information is not the result of the NPM’s analysis and findings, but it refers to objective data that was communicated to them by the authorities. Some NPMs also have face-to-face interactions with the authorities to discuss orally their draft reports and recommendations, promoting transparency, encouraging a constructive relationship and increasing the possibility of implementation of recommendations. Once the final report is shared with the authorities and made public, NPMs engage in a sustained dialogue process to follow-up on their recommendations and ensure their implementation. In practice, it means not only relying on written exchanges such as emails or official correspondence, but also – and most importantly – maintaining face-to-face or online meetings and informal interactions, for instance via telephone or WhatsApp, to establish trust .
NPMs have direct interactions with the authorities also beyond their recommendations following visits to places of detention, for example to discuss relevant thematic issues or to advocate for legal and policy changes. NPMs are also regularly consulted on specific issues and provide expert advice to authorities.