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Pact allows surprise visits to detention centres

New pact allowing surprise visits to detention centres hailed by UN official

A landmark pact allowing experts to visit detention centres unannounced in a bid to protect against torture and a forthcoming draft convention protecting disabled persons both highlight recent outstanding human rights achievements, a senior United Nations official told an international meeting in Geneva today.

The protocol marks a “historic milestone in the fight against torture,” and the draft Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities signals “an outstanding accomplishment in the field of human rights,” Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director of the Human Rights Procedures Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told the Committee against Torture’s opening session.

Mr. Ndiaye said the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which took effect in June, will provide signatories with an unprecedented new monitoring mechanism to establish a system of regular visits to detention centres by international and national independent expert bodies.

States accepting the pact will also be required to set up national preventive systems including access to places of detention and prisoners held there.

To date, 142 countries have ratified the convention, and 28 have signed the optional protocol.

Mr. Ndiaye also said the draft International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, slated for adoption by the General Assembly at its current session, will provide a framework to address the previously neglected rights of the world’s estimated 650 million disabled persons.

In related news, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour on Saturday lauded great strides made in the field of human rights but cautioned that challenges remain great and the world needs to practice what it preaches.

“Despite the progress in institution building, standard setting and norm creation, the actual implementation of rights is still severely lagging,” Ms. Arbour said as she accepted the Canadian Global Citizen Extraordinaire Award at the International Development and Relief Foundation in Toronto.

“Filling the gap between pledges and practice represents the main challenge that the human rights movement confronts today.”

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