"The reality is alarming. Despite the fact that torture constitutes one of the most brutal attacks on human dignity and one of the most serious human rights violations, and notwithstanding the absolute nature of the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment even in the most exceptional circumstances, such as war, internal disturbances and terrorism, torture and ill-treatment are widespread practices in the majority of the countries on our planet.”
Be it for the purpose of extracting confessions or information, for extorting money or for deliberate discrimination against specific groups, torture and ill-treatment take place everywhere and continue to be inflicted in a systematic and widespread manner in many countries around the world. Though the root causes may differ from country to country, it can always be traced back to both individual and systemic factors such as insufficient legal frameworks, corrupt or dysfunctional criminal justice systems and widespread impunity, ineffective safeguards, and lack of effective monitoring and public scrutiny of the security sector.
Table of Contents
- The Objective: Building Upon the Work of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture
- The Implementation of the Project
- The Phases of the Project
THE OBJECTIVE: FOLLOW-UP ON THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE UNSRT
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture (UNSRT) has developed as one of the strongest tools of the United Nations to address the phenomenon of torture worldwide. Among his main activities rank fact-finding missions, which the former UNSRT, Prof. Manfred Nowak, conducted in 18 countries in all regions of the world providing governments with an independent assessment of the situation of torture and the conditions of detention, identifying the root causes for abuse, and formulating recommendations which would strengthen the prevention of torture.
Fact Finding Missions of UN Special Rapporteur on Torture since Dec. 2004 auf einer größeren Karte anzeigen
Despite the overwhelming consensus among international human rights experts that these recommendations should be rigorously followed-up to ensure that the insights gained are not lost and translated into concrete actions and a sustainable strengthening of the prevention of torture, to date there is no regular in-country follow-up foreseen under the UNSRT's mandate. Nor does the United Nations human rights system have the means to provide for systematic follow-up through other programmes.
Precisely to fill this gap, Prof. Manfred Nowak and his team of experts at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights have developed the Atlas of Torture project which is funded by the European Commission under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). The project is designed to strengthen the implementation of the UNSRT’s recommendations in five selected countries during a period of three years. The overall goal of the project is to strengthen civil society organisations in their capacity to promote and advocate for the adoption of specific measures for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment.
“NGOs and civil society have been the driving force behind the UN human rights agenda since its very beginning in the 1940s. … At the same time, civil society, including NGOs, academia, independent media and investigative journalists, are among the main sources of information about the factual situation of human rights in all countries of the world.”
The primary target group of the Atlas of Torture project are civil society organisations involved in combating torture, reforming the criminal justice system, and more generally, promoting the protection of human rights of persons deprived of liberty.
THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROJECT
The Atlas of Torture project aims at promoting sustainable capacity development of civil society organisations adopting follow-up activities to the specific needs of each project country in three areas most relevant for the effective prevention of torture:
a) combating impunity, incl. capacity development for effective complaints; workshop for public authorities tasked with initiating ex officio investigations;
b) strengthening safeguards against torture, such as strengthening access to a lawyer and legal assistance at the initial phase of deprivation of liberty and strengthening legal aid; training of medical personnel and other stakeholders on the implementation of the Istanbul Protocol; improving comprehensive record-keeping; strengthening judicial capacity with regard to judicial review of detention and non-admissibility of evidence obtained under torture in judicial proceedings;
c) monitoring places of detention, incl. workshop on independent and effective monitoring; capacity-development training for visiting mechanisms; the training of monitoring bodies (particularly newly designated National Preventive Mechanisms under OPCAT); the elaboration of draft amendments to rectify shortcomings in the legal framework governing the prevention of torture;
THE PHASES OF THE PROJECT
Phase 1: Selection of partner countries: Completed
On the basis of questionnaires sent out to civil society organisations working in the field of torture prevention, phone interviews with selected experts (local and international NGOs, international organisations, counterparts during missions) as well as various reports published since the implementation of the fact-finding mission (Treaty Bodies, UPR, other Special Procedures, NGOs…) five countries were selected with the implementation starting in Paraguay and Moldova (first visits scheduled for March and April 2011).
Phase 2: Fact-finding visit
- Interviews/consultations with all relevant stakeholders
- Selection of focal points
- Preliminary workplan
- Round-table discussions
- Fact-findig reports
Phase 3: Opening conference, elaboration of workplan
Phase 4: Capacity building workshops (Impunity, Safeguards, Monitoring)
Phase 5: Follow-up:
- Interim evaluation
- Follow-up workshops
Phase 6: Evaluation and advisory strategy
- Consultations on sustainability, elaboration of advisory strategy
- Overall evaluation
- Final Report
The overall implementation of the project, which started in October 2010, is supported by some of the most distinguished experts in the field of torture prevention. Dirk Van Zyl Smit (Professor of Comparative and International Penal Law at the University of Nottingham), Silvia Casale (former head of the CPT and UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture), Hina Jilani (former UN Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders), and Santiago Canton (Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) form the project’s advisory board.