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Torture prevention: Portugal must seek alternatives

Torture prevention: Portugal must seek alternatives to detention — UN experts

GENEVA (May 10, 2018) — Portugal must shift its penitentiary system’s focus from retribution to rehabilitation, the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) said as it concluded today its first visit to the country.

During the 10-day visit, a five-member delegation visited detention and mental health facilities, including in Lisbon, Coimbra, Porto and Sintra, and met with Government officials and the Ombudsperson as well as civil society representatives. The UN experts also accompanied members of the independent national body known as the National Preventive Mechanism during visits to a detention center for juvenile offenders and to a prison.

“An independent, visible and well-resourced National Preventive Mechanism is crucial in ensuring that effective safeguards and mechanisms are in place to prevent torture and ill-treatment,” said Nora Sveaass, who headed the delegation. “We will make recommendations concerning this in our confidential report to the authorities.”

The SPT monitors how States that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) are meeting their treaty obligations, including establishing an independent monitoring body known as a National Preventive Mechanism. Portugal ratified the Optional Protocol and designated its mechanism in 2013.

“We call on the Portuguese government to introduce more rehabilitation programs and to seek alternatives to detention,” said Sveaass. “We also encourage the government to provide the National Preventive Mechanism with the necessary human and financial resources to continue and expand its important work.”

The SPT delegation was comprised of Nora Sveaass, Head of Delegation (Norway), Satyabhooshun Gupt Domah (Mauritius), Roberto Michel Fehér Pérez (Uruguay), Kosta Mitrovic (Serbia), and Margarete Osterfeld (Germany).

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