Preventing torture in places of detention

Graphic: Detainees in a prison in the Maldives


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Torture is one of the most serious abuses of a person's fundamental rights. It is a complete violation of a person's dignity and humanity.

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment places an absolute prohibition on torture and ill-treatment of people held in detention.

However, there is inevitably a gap between what the law says should happen and what happens in practice. Preventing torture is about narrowing that gap.


Graphic: Training program for law enforcement officials in Palestine


Graphic: Prison guards, Jordan

Advocating for Jordan's prisoners

Jordan

Twelve years ago, Nisreen Zerikat from the Jordan National Centre for Human Rights, undertook her first visit to listen to the concerns of prisoners.


Across the Asia Pacific, staff and Commissioners from national human rights institutions (NHRIs) regularly monitor places of detention, from prisons and police lock ups to immigration detention centres and closed psychiatric facilities.

NHRIs also investigate allegations of torture, train law enforcement officials, promote public awareness and recommend changes to national laws and detention policies.

Their work has been critical in driving positive changes to laws, policies, practices and community attitudes in many countries across the region.

NHRIs also advocate that their State ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, an international treaty that establishes a system for carrying out independent visits to places of detention by monitoring teams known as a 'national preventive mechanism'.

In some countries, the NHRI is designated as the sole national preventive mechanism. In other countries, it can involve representatives from the NHRI working in partnership with representatives from civil society organisations.

The APF supports member institutions to carry out this important work by running a blended learning training program on preventing torture.

We are also working with the Association for the Prevention of Torture on a three-year series of activities funded by the European Union to strengthen the capacity of NHRIs in the Asia Pacific region to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment. A key part of this program is the innovative Torture Prevention Ambassadors project.


Police in the Philippines show their support for the Torture Prevention Ambassadors project

In 2014, we started working in partnership with the Association for the Prevention of Torture on a three-year program of activities funded by the European Union to strengthen the capacity of NHRIs in the Asia Pacific region to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment. A key part of this program was the innovative Torture Prevention Ambassadors Project.


Torture is like genocide and slavery; it is a destroyer of humanity and dignity. It is completely, morally reprehensible. It must remain a taboo.

Mark Thomson
Secretary-General, Association for the Prevention of Torture


Graphic: Man sits alone on bed in a cell

Preventing Torture: An Operational Manual for National Human Rights Institutions

The manual provides a practical guide for staff of NHRIs to conduct preventive visits to places of detention and make recommendations for reform.


Report

Monitoring Places of Detention: A Practical Guide

04 Oct 2015  
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Guide on the Establishment and Designation of National Preventive Mechanisms

04 Oct 2015  
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ACJ Report on Preventing Torture

11 Aug 2015  
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NHRIs as National Preventive Mechanisms: Opportunities and Challenges

04 Oct 2015  
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More resources

Image credits

  1. Detainees in a prison in the Maldives - APF/Michael Power
  2. Training program for law enforcement officials in Palestine - Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights
  3. Police in the Philippines show their support for the Torture Prevention Ambassadors project - Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines