UN Torture Prevention Body Announces Visits For 2024
GENEVA (3 July 2023) — The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) has announced plans to visit Albania, Bolivia, Gabon, and Mongolia in the first half of 2024, and confirmed upcoming visits to Croatia, Georgia, Guatemala, the State of Palestine and the Philippines in the second half of this year.
These decisions were made at its latest confidential session held in Geneva in June. The SPT will announce more visits in 2024 following its next meeting in November.
Under the specific mandate of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), the SPT conducts visits to States parties to assess the situation of people deprived of their liberty, and it monitors a wide range of settings, such as prisons, police stations, psychiatric hospitals, closed refugee camps and immigration detention centres. In this regard, the SPT also meets and works with each State’s independent torture prevention watchdog, formally named the National Prevention Mechanism (NPM), as well as with public authorities and civil society organisations.
The Subcommittee visited South Africa, Kazakhstan and Madagascar in the first half of 2023.
During its two-week June session, the SPT held a day of the general discussion on its draft General Comment regarding the definition of place of deprivation of liberty under Article 4 of the OPCAT. Following more than 70 written submissions received before the session, participants representing States parties, NPMs, civil society organisations and academics discussed and highlighted the need for clarification on what constitutes a place of deprivation of liberty, given the existing grey areas encountered by SPT experts and other stakeholders.
“This was a very enriching exercise that will help us prepare a practical document to assist all entities monitoring places of deprivation of liberty, especially NPMs, as well as States, to ensure that there will be no black holes in any country where torture or ill-treatment can occur,” said Suzanne Jabbour, the SPT Chairperson. “It will also assist in identifying all places where people are detained so that we can visit them and improve their detention conditions, many of which we know can be inhumane, as we regularly witness during our preventive visits.”
The SPT also analysed and recommended projects worldwide for the OPCAT Fund to support. The Fund helps finance the implementation of recommendations made by the Subcommittee after its country visits and sponsors various educational programmes undertaken by the NPMs. The SPT also met with the bureau of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI). As many NPMs are housed within national human rights institutions, collaboration between these entities is key.
In addition, the SPT confirmed the list of States parties whose compliance with their obligations under Article 17 of the OPCAT is substantially overdue. These countries include Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Nauru, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Sudan, and the State of Palestine. Under the OPCAT, States are obliged to establish their NPM within one year of ratification. The SPT revises this list at every session, adding States that are significantly overdue, as well as removing those that designate them. The SPT remains optimistic that, with its support in establishing NPMs, States might not be added to this list, and others might be removed from it.