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New call for effective national torture watchdogs

Secretary General Strasbourg 13 October 2016
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New call for effective national torture watchdogs

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe has been joined by prominent human rights activists and experts in a call to ensure that national anti-torture bodies function effectively and meet international ambitions.

10 years ago the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) broke new ground in the international fight against torture by requiring states to set up independent bodies to oversee the treatment of all persons deprived of their liberty, including in police custody and immigration detention centres.

To date, 64 so-called “National Preventative Mechanisms” (NPMs) have been established worldwide. While a remarkable achievement, this creates new challenges in ensuring that the bodies are reaching the goals set by OPCAT and have been given sufficient powers, resources and independence to scrutinise detention facilities and hold the relevant authorities to account.

The signatories advocate a new, independent board to assess the activities of each national mechanism as well as the legal and political context in which it operates. Through on-site observation of the NPMs’ work and consultation with the teams running them, the new Observatory, staffed by independent experts, will be able to evaluate any shortcomings and support the anti-torture bodies through constructive recommendations.

A number of officials responsible for running NPMs* have already added their names to the call. The preliminary work for an international observatory is being sponsored by the Council of Europe. Further information can be obtained at markus.jaeger@coe.int.

* Alberto Achermann, Head of the NPM of Switzerland, Adam Bodnar, Head of the NPM of Poland, Mihail Cotorobai, Head of the NPM of Moldova, Sasa Jankovic, Head of the NPM of Serbia, Vassilis Karydis, Acting Head of the NPM of Greece, Valeriya Lutkovska, Head the NPM of Ukraine, Maya Manolova, Head of the NPM of Bulgaria, Mauro Palma, Head of the NPM of Italy, Anna Šabatová, Head of the NPM of the Czech Republic, Eliza Savvidou, Head of the NPM of Cyprus, Arman Tatoyan, Head of the NPM of Armenia, Igli Totozani, Head of the NPM of Albania