last updated Sep 28, 2016 On 23 September 2016 Ghana deposited the instrument of ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) to the United Nations in New York. The country had already signed the Optional Protocol in 2006.
With Ghana, there are 82nd States Parties to the OPCAT.
last updated Sep 20, 2016 The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) will make its first visit to the Republic of Kazakhstan from 20 to 29 September. The visit will be carried out by Victor Zaharia, Arman Danielyan, Marija Definis-Gojanovich and Paul Lam Shang Leen.
As reported by the SPT in its press release of 19 September 2016, the delegation is due to visit prisons, colonies, police stations, guardhouses, correctional rehabilitation centres, psychiatric institutions and other detention facilities. It will meet a number of different stakeholders, including government officials, CSOs, and the National Preventive Mechanism (the Human Rights Commissioner of the Republic of Kazakhstan).
“The first visit of the Subcommittee will mark an important milestone in the cooperation between Kazakhstan and the UN treaty bodies,” said Victor Zaharia, SPT member and head of the SPT delegation.
last updated Sep 13, 2016 The Committee against Torture has released its 2016 Annual Report. The Report covers the period from 16 May 2015 to 13 May 2016, i.e. the Committee’s fifty-fifth, fifty-sixth and fifty-seventh sessions. During the reporting period, Fiji ratified the Convention and San Marino recognised the competence of the Committee under articles 21 and 22. Among the main developments, the Committee reports that 21 States reports were submitted under Article 19, and new concluding observations were adopted on 17 State reports. A Special Report was requested from Burundi. In the framework of the individual complaints procedure, the Committee adopted 29 decisions on the merits and 12 on admissibility. At its fifty-fifth session, the Committee decided to revise the General Comment No. 1 on Article 3.
last updated Sep 07, 2016 On 5 August 2016, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, presented his latest interim report to the UN General Assembly. The report highlights that the use of unlawful and improper interviewing practices by law enforcement officials and investigative bodies is still a persistent problem. Noting the growing momentum around issues of investigation, questioning and custody practices, the SRT calls upon States to develop a universal protocol that promotes ethical, non-coercive and evidence-based interviewing practices, and aims at ensuring that no person is subject to torture, ill-treatment or coercion by setting minimum standards applicable to interviews conducted by all agents of all States. Such a protocol would provide guidance for a human rights-compliant interviewing model, including on the general legal framework, procedural safeguards, and accountability mechanisms and remedies. In his report, the SRT recommends that the protocol should be developed in cooperation with the relevant international and regional human rights mechanisms, civil society and experts, and affirmed that a first step in this regard should be to hold a broad public consultation.
last updated Sep 02, 2016 On 31 August 2016 the SPT announced it will resume its visit to Ukraine. Visits were suspended in May 2016 after the torture prevention body was repeatedly denied access to detention facilities. The resumption of the visit follows positive talks between the SPT and the Ukrainian Government.
The visit will be carried out by Malcolm Evans (United Kingdom), Marija Definis-Gojanoviæ (Croatia), and Victor Zaharia (Moldova) from 5 to 9 September 2016.
According to the information released by the UN, the SPT will 'examine developments in Ukraine related to the prevention of torture and ill-treatment, and will evaluate how recommendations from the SPT’s first visit in 2011, including the need for legal reform, increased institutional oversight to reduce the risk of torture and comprehensive medical examinations of people in detention, have been implemented.'
last updated Aug 22, 2016 A comparative study recently published by Richard Carver and Lisa Handley and overall involving more than 20 researchers and covering a 30-year period (1984-2014) provides solid evidence that the risk of torture decreases when preventive measures are in place. The research commissioned by the Association for the Prevention of Torture took place in 14 countries, among them in Kyrgyzstan which was conducted by a team of researchers from the Ludwig Boltzmann institute of Human Rights (BIM) and the Tian Shan Policy Center at the American University of Central Asia. The research specifically emphasised the importance of proper detention safeguards in the prevention of torture.
In this spirit the team Human Dignity and Public Security at the BIM is steadily increasing its research on procedural rights in detention as member of the civil society network JUSTICIA .
last updated Aug 08, 2016 Since the three months that have passed, following on from Rodrigo Duarte taking office as the president of the Philippines in May, over 700 people have been killed by police, military and vigilante as part of his pledge to crackdown on drugs. During a speech as part of his inauguration as President, Duarte said “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”
A joint letter written by the International Drug Policy Consortium highlighted the staggering number of extra judicial killings and the complete lack of accountability and due process in a climate of impunity: “Instead of ensuring the rights of people suspected of committing drug-related crimes to due process and to a fair trial, the President has called for them to be executed on the spot. Despite reports of killings that involve no violent resistance, the President, Solicitor-General and Chief of Police have assured law enforcement officers that they will be protected against conviction of criminal offenses in the discharge of their anti-drug related duties, thereby implying impunity for extrajudicial killings.”
The letter urged the UNODC and INCB to call on the president Duarte to inter alia uphold the rule of law and to immediately end the incitement to kill and not to re-impose the death penalty for drug related offences.
last updated Jul 25, 2016 Amnesty International has reported accounts of widespread torture and ill treatment in places of detention in Turkey. Amnesty International’s Europe director John Dalhuisen, said that there were “reports of abuse including beatings and rape in detention are extremely alarming, especially given the scale of detentions that we have seen in the past week. The grim details that we have documented are just a snapshot of the abuses that might be happening in places of detention,”
These reports have surfaced following the events that unfolded in Turkey since the government’s response to the recent military coup attempt. The days that followed saw an announcement that the Turkish Parliament had approved a bill seeking to withdraw in part from the European Convention on Human Rights.
In addition, in April 2016 the National Human Rights Institution of Turkey, which had access to detention facilities in the country to monitor conditions of detention, was abolished.
Amnesty International is calling on the government to facilitate immediate access to places of detention for International monitoring bodies.
last updated Jul 19, 2016 To mark Nelson Mandela International Day, experts are calling on States to implement the revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules. The Rules represent a universally accepted minimum standard for the treatment of prisoners, conditions of detention and prison management, and offer essential practical guidance to prison administrations.
UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez; the Special Rapporteur on prisons, conditions of detention and policing in Africa, Med Kaggwa; the Rapporteur on the rights of persons deprived of liberty of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, James Cavallaro; and the Council of Europe Commissioner for human rights, Nils Muižnieks, in an open statement noted that:
“The revised Rules represent a universally accepted minimum standard for the treatment of prisoners, conditions of detention and prison management, and offer essential practical guidance to prison administrations...The implementation of the Rules in prisons around the world would significantly improve the treatment of millions of detainees. At the same time, it is useful guidance to help prison staff deliver their important and difficult task in a professional and effective way, benefiting society at large. Speedy and decisive steps towards implementation would truly honor the legacy of the great Statesman and inspirational leader, Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison.”
“Their implementation in prisons around the world would significantly improve the treatment of millions of detainees,” the experts stated. “At the same time, it is useful guidance to help prison staff deliver their important and difficult task in a professional and effective way, benefiting society at large.”
The Mandela Rules include key safeguards such as the recognition of the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
last updated Jul 14, 2016 On 13 July, Amnesty International published a report highlighting the surge in enforced disappearances. The report found that hundreds of students, political activists and protesters, including children as young as 14, vanish without trace at the hands of the state. On average three to four people per day are seized according to local NGOs, usually when heavily armed security forces led by NSA officers storm their homes. Many are held for months at a time and often kept blindfolded and handcuffed for the entire period. The report features the detailed cases of people subjected to enforced disappearance, who were held incommunicado and denied access to their lawyers or families or any independent judicial oversight, and includes accounts of torture of victims during interrogation sessions lasting up to seven hours, in order to extract “confessions” later used as evidence against them during questioning by prosecutors and to obtain convictions at trials.
last updated Jun 27, 2016 Torture and ill-treatment are universally and absolutely prohibited and to date 159 States have ratified the UN Convention against Torture (CAT), aimed at eradicating such practices. However there is a serious gap in implementing the CAT and torture and other forms of ill-treatment remain a worrisome problem today in the majority of the world.
Therefore, on the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights (BIM) is pleased to announce the start of the new project ‘Revision of the Commentary to the UN Convention Against Torture’. Under the leadership of Prof. Manfred Nowak, a team of experienced researchers are working on a revised edition of the CAT Commentary to be published with Oxford University Press. The new edition shall provide researchers and practitioners worldwide with a comprehensive and up-to-date guidance on the interpretation of State obligations contained in the CAT and its Optional Protocol (OPCAT). Thereby the research hopes to contribute to the efforts of States and civil society organisations to prevent torture and ill-treatment.
The OPCAT, entered into force 10 years ago and establishing a system of preventive monitoring of places of detention, can play an especially important role in this regard. Therefore the Institute has participated in a joint civil society statement urging States to promote its universal ratification, establish effective and independent National Preventive Mechanisms, and implement their recommendations to reduce the risks of torture and ill-treatment.
For more information on the Institute’s efforts to prevent torture and ill-treatment through research and technical assistance, please visit the website of the Team Human Dignity and Public Security.
last updated Jun 20, 2016 On 19 June, The Guardian published an article on the Australian-run detention centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea´s Manus Island, based on the “incident reports” from Paul Stevenson´s time in the islands’ detention centres in 2014 and 2015. The psychologist and traumatologist, who was a counsellor on the mental health of the security guards, alleges that asylum seekers detained on Nauru and Manus Island are more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than it is the case for victims of other disasters, whether caused by humankind or nature. The reasons behind it are the terrible and dehumanised conditions of detention the migrants are kept in, he explained.
last updated Jun 01, 2016 After an informative and stimulating workshop for judges in April in Trier, a consultative workshop for National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) will take place on 7 and 8 June in Vienna in the framework of the EU-funded project “Strengthening cooperation between the judiciary and torture monitoring bodies in the European Union”. The project is carried out by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights (BIM) and the Academy of European Law (ERA).
This workshop will host around 20 European NPMs to discuss developments regarding EU law and jurisprudence relevant for the monitoring bodies, as well as the potential role of NPMs in contributing to the fundamental rights compliant implementation of the European Arrest Warrant and other relevant Framework Decisions. A key aspect in this regard will be the cooperation between the judiciary and NPMs across EU Member States. The event will additionally provide an opportunity for substantive exchange with a view to extending cooperation among NPMs.
The researchers from BIM and ERA on this theme will present the main findings of the project’s baseline study. Several high-level speakers will participate in the exchange and share their expertise with the participants, such as Mari Amos (UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture), Jonas Grimheden (EU Agency for Fundamental Rights), Anton van Kalmthout (European Committee for the Prevention of Torture) and Michaël Meysman (Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy). Manfred Nowak, BIM Director, will open the event.
last updated May 28, 2016 On 25 May 2016, the SPT suspended its visit to Ukraine after being repeatedly denied access to detention facilities. Malcolm Evans, head of the delegation, stated: “This denial of access is in breach of Ukraine's obligations as a State party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. It has meant that we have not been able to visit some places where we have heard numerous and serious allegations that people have been detained and where torture or ill-treatment may have occurred […]”.
last updated May 24, 2016 From 19 to 26 May 2016, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) is visiting Ukraine to assess the situation of persons deprived of their liberty and the safeguards against torture and ill-treatment as a follow-up to its prior visit in 2011. At the same time, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, several human rights organisations supported by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights are trying to put the spotlight once again on the situation in the Donbass region. After the joint report „Surviving Hell“ of September 2015 on the alarming situation in that region, they report that torture is still widespread. Also, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) noted congruent findings. In its report on the human rights situation in Ukraine from March 2016, it outlined the particularly vulnerable situation in the Donbass: the “OHCHR continued to receive and verify allegations of killings, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture and ill-treatment […]“.
last updated May 20, 2016 On 13 May 2016, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) concluded its country visit to Romania. The SPT recognised the progress in regard to prison conditions in Romania, and particularly highlighted the positive impact of the increased use of alternatives to detention in the pre-trial phase. The experts, however, urge for further adequate measures, especially to reduce overcrowding in places where people are deprived of their liberty. Additionally, the SPT recalls the importance of a well-funded and independent National Preventive Mechanism to ensure strong safeguards against torture and ill-treatment.
last updated May 09, 2016 On 7 May 2016, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (UNSRT), Juan E. Mendez, and UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Mónica Pinto, concluded their joint visit from 29 April to 7 May 2016 to Sri Lanka. After more than 30 years of armed conflict, the two UN experts assessed the recent situation and remaining challenges regarding torture and other forms of ill-treatment as well as the independence of lawyers and judges on the invitation of the Sri Lankan government. Despite positive trends in the country, the UNSRT outlined that "[…] sadly the practice of interrogation under physical and mental coercion still exists and severe forms of torture, albeit probably in less frequent instances, continues to be used." In addition, impunity for the perpetrators, poor conditions of detention facilities as well as procedural shortcomings in trials still cause severe challenges. In his preliminary observations and recommendations, Juan E. Mendez called on the Sri Lankan government to adopt urgent measures to ensure its international human rights obligations as well as to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.
last updated May 02, 2016 On 28 April 2016, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) has released its annual report for 2015. The SPT highlights the specific vulnerability of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons in detention. When deprived of their liberty, LGBTI persons are at a higher risk of ill-treatment and torture; the SPT therefore recommends specific measures to States to strengthen the protection of LGBTI persons and prevent abuses against them.
last updated Apr 28, 2016 On 25 April 2016, Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced the start of a preliminary examination into the ongoing crisis in Burundi. A crisis that escalated after the re-election of President Pierre Nkurunziza for the third time in April 2015 that many claimed to be unconstitutional. In the aftermath of the elections, the police seemed to have used excessive and partly lethal force. Over the last year, the ICC reviewed numerous reports and communications referring to “acts of killings, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence as well as cases of enforced disappearances.” Based on the examination of the information available, the Prosecutor will decide whether there is a legal and factual basis for an investigation before the Court.
Earlier this month, Zeid Ra´ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, already underlined the gravity of the situation in Burundi. He raised major concerns about the widespread use of torture and ill-treatment. Additionally, the High Commissioner disclosed worrying reports about secret detention facilities across the country. According to observations on the spot, he reported at least 345 cases of torture and ill-treatment for just this year. Reportedly, the abuses “mainly take place at the time of arrest, upon arrival or during detention, especially in facilities run by the Service national de renseignements (SNR), the police and, to a lesser extent, the army.” At the same time, rebel groups and unidentified armed individuals also increasingly conduct targeted attacks and cause causalities in Burundi. Overall, the situation in the country remains fragile. To ease the acute conflict, former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, nominated as the mediator in the dialogue, announced to resume stalled talks from 2 - 6 May in Arusha.
last updated Apr 19, 2016 On 21 and 22 April 2016, a consultation workshop for EU judges will take place at the Conference Centre of the Academy of European Law (ERA) in Trier within the framework of the EU-funded project on “Strengthening cooperation between the judiciary and torture monitoring bodies in the European Union”.
The project, carried out by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights (BIM) in cooperation with ERA, intends to increase the cooperation between the judiciary and National Preventive Mechanisms with the aim to improve the rights of detainees within the EU through a more fundamental rights compliant implementation of EU law.
From BIM, Tiphanie Crittin, Gerrit Zach and Moritz Birk will present the main findings of the project´s Baseline Study. Several speakers will participate in the exchange and share their expertise with the participants, such as Mari Amos (UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture), Dr. Jonas Grimheden (EU Agency for Fundamental Rights), Dr. Anton van Kalmthout (EU Committee for the Prevention of Torture) or Dr. Nina Marx (Judge at the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court of Bremen).
last updated Apr 13, 2016 On 5 April 2016, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published its report on „Inadequate conditions for Prisoners with Psychosocial Disabilities in France“. It emphasises that the punitive effect of detention is even hardened in numerous cases for persons with mental health conditions. In general, the number of prisoners with psychosocial disabilities in France is amounting to thousands of detainees. These persons often face stigma and differential treatment in detention. Besides a deficient training for prison guards, the mental health care system is insufficient and of poor quality according to the report. Additionally, persons with mental health conditions are frequently hospitalised if their health situation worsens, with and even without their consent. There, they again face isolation and discrimination due to their status as prisoners. HRW brings up that women with psychosocial disabilities are in an even harsher situation. They often have less freedom of movement and a more limited access to health care.
last updated Apr 08, 2016 On 6 April 2016, Amnesty International (AI) published its annual survey report on the death penalty. The total number of executions in 2015 has augmented to at least 1.634 from 1.061 in 2014; the highest number in the last 25 years. Not included in this data are even the figures from China since this information is dealt as a State secret. Experts believe that China remained the „world´s top executor“ by carrying out thousands of executions per year. According to AI, 89 % of the reported executions confine to just three countries: Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. While the numbers of execution raised by more than 50%, the trend towards abolition still continued as well. Four countries have banned the death penalty for all crimes in 2015, namely Madagascar, Suriname, Fiji and the Republic of Congo.
last updated Mar 23, 2016 On 21 March 2016, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its report “Living in Hell: Abuses against People with Psychosocial Disabilities in Indonesia”. The report discloses that persons with mental health conditions still face arbitrary detention as well as outlawed harmful practices, including pasung, i.e. chaining and confinement of a person. Additionally, those in health care centres and other institutions are at risk of involuntary treatment and abuses. HRW acknowledges the steps taken by the government, but at the same time, calls on the Indonesian government to fully comply with its international obligations, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) as well as to ensure and more strictly monitor the implementation of the existing laws.
last updated Mar 07, 2016 On 8 March, International Women's Day, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (UNSRT) publishes his thematic report on the gender perspectives on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. The report analyses in the light of the existing international documents against torture, the particular situation of women, girls and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex persons (LGBTI); an approach that was lacking for some time, he said in the report. The Special Rapporteur addresses a wide range of issues in his report including sexual and domestic violence, harmful practices such as FGM or forced marriage, as well as human trafficking and the challenges in regard to the health-care and criminal justice systems.
On 8 March, the UNSRT will present the report to the Human Rights Council. The presentation and the Interactive Dialogue with the States will be broadcasted live under http://webtv.un.org/.
last updated Mar 01, 2016 On 1 March, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published the report of its ad hoc visit in April 2015 to Greece, together with the response of the Greek authorities. The visit focused on the implementation of former CPT recommendations, mainly concerning police ill-treatment, prison conditions and the treatment of juveniles in custody. In its report, the CPT concluded that ill-treatment by law enforcement authorities is still a widespread problem. At the same time, it noted that the necessary safeguards against abuses (e.g. notification of custody, access to a lawyer and access to a doctor) lack proper implementation. Also, the investigations of alleged ill-treatments are often ineffective. Additionally, the delegation called for urgent steps against overcrowding, the poor prison health care services and the overall alarming situation in Greek prisons. In this regard, the CPT welcomed the emergency and long-term measures planned by the Greek authorities to address these systematic problems.
last updated Feb 25, 2016 On 15 February, Defence for Children International (DCI), leading organisation within the framework of the project Children´s Rights Behind Bars, officially presented their new monitoring guidebook. This innovative tool, to which the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute contributed over the last two years, includes a preventive and child-sensitive approach and is “the very first European Practical Guide dedicated to the monitoring of places of deprivation of liberty for children”, according to DCI. It is available for free in English and in French.
last updated Feb 19, 2016 On 17 February 2016, Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that the Egyptian authorities ordered - due to license violations - to close the El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture; a center providing medical care and counseling to victims as well as reporting about torture and ill-treatment in police custody. Center representatives raised objection against the administrative decision that doesn’t provide any reasons for the closure, according to Aida Seif al-Dawla, one of the founders. The closure, therefore, is postponed to 22 February 2016, when center representatives will meet with the Ministry of Health to discuss reasons behind the order. “Closing the Nadeem Center would be a devastating blow to Egypt’s human rights movement as well as victims of abuse” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW Middle East director, said.
last updated Feb 19, 2016 From 18 to 28 May 2015, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) visited Sweden. It released - on request of the Swedish Government - the report of the periodic country visit on 17 February 2016. The primary aim was to review the developments since the previous visits with a focus on the safeguards against ill-treatment in police custody and restrictions used against prisoners on remand: In its report, the CPT recalled the importance of systematic and professional medical examination as well as the comprehensive right to information to prevent ill-treatment in police establishments. Additionally, it emphasised that “there are no real signs of progress as regards the widespread imposition of restrictions on remand prisoners”. The delegation also visited forensic psychiatric establishments, high security prisons and immigration detention centres and made a number of additional recommendations.
last updated Feb 11, 2016 On 8 February 2016, the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Syrian Arab Republic released a new report on mass deaths and widespread torture in official and makeshift detention facilities. According to the Commission, thousands of detainees were killed in custody between March 2011 and November 2015. In its report, it accused the Syrian government of having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including systematic and widespread murder, rape, extermination, torture in the detention centres, as well as arbitrary imprisonment and enforced disappearances. Not less severe are the charges against non-governmental armed groups and terrorist organisations. The Commission states that the situation of detainees “represents an urgent and large-scale crisis of human rights protection” and calls for accurate steps to end these massive human rights violations. For the report, the Commission conducted 621 interviews and relied on expanded documentary material, since the Syrian government repeatedly denied it access to the territory.
last updated Feb 04, 2016 Every year, 6 February is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a painful and sometimes lethal practice involving the cutting of female genitalia, and violating a range of rights of women and girls. FGM interferes inter alia with their right to health, security and physical integrity, as well as the right to be free from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment.
To set an end to FGM, it is necessary to promote the agenda on an international as well as on a grass-root level with a focus on human rights and gender equality. “These efforts should emphasise societal dialogue and the empowerment of communities to act collectively to end the practice”, stated the UN.
last updated Feb 04, 2016 From 25 to 29 January, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) visited Cyprus. All in all, the delegation noted, progress in the treatment of detainees has been observed. However, Cyprus “[…] still faces several challenges, particularly regarding the independent monitoring of places of detention and the treatment of migrants” according to the SPT. It recalled that immigration detention must be applied restrictively and that it has to be seen as a last resort. Additionally, the delegation stated that the Cypriot monitoring body (the National Preventive Mechanism) needed a better financing and a stronger legal position to enable it to implement its mandate properly.
last updated Jan 28, 2016 On 25 January 2016, US president Barack Obama announced a ban on confinement in isolation for juveniles in federal prisons. He highlighted that “The United States is a nation of second chances, but the experience of solitary confinement too often undercuts that second chance.”
Meanwhile, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed its judgment Miller v Alabama (2012) and stated that the abolishment of mandatory juvenile life imprisonments without the possibility of release has to be applied retroactively also for persons sentenced before 2012; a practice that has already been applicable in certain, but not all US states. Human Rights Watch (HRW) welcomed the judgment but recalled that still a lot more has to be done to adequately ensure juvenile offenders’ rights appropriate to their maturity.
last updated Dec 18, 2015 On 16 December 2015, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has published a report on mass deaths and torture in detention facilities of the Syrian government. For the report HRW examined the so-called 'Caesar photographs' smuggled out of Syria by a military defector and interviewed relatives and friends, former detainees and defectors. According to HRW the photographs show at least 6,786 deaths in or immediately after custody and reveal "evidence of widespread torture, starvation, beatings, and disease in Syrian government detention facilities."
last updated Dec 16, 2015 On 8 December, Amnesty International (AI) reported that the death penalty for two young men was renewed for crimes which they committed as juveniles. According to AI “Iran cemented its shameful status as the world’s top official executioner of juvenile offenders” as it continues to impose the death penalty for crimes committed by minors and postponing the execution until the offenders reach 18 years.
On 11 and 12 January 2016 Iran is going to be reviewed by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Committee has already raised its concerns about Iran´s continuous practice to sentence juvenile offenders to death.
last updated Dec 16, 2015 On 3 December, the Mongolian Parliament voted in favour for a new Criminal Code that abolishes the death penalty for all crimes. The new law will come into force in September 2016 and Mongolia would then become the 105th State abolishing the death penalty in law. This step was greatly welcomed by the UN and human rights organisations.
last updated Nov 30, 2015 On 25 November 2015, the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) announced its visiting agenda for 2016.
During the first half it will visit Chile, Cyprus, Romania, Tunisia and Ukraine and the second half Kazakhstan, Mauritania, Mexico, Mozambique and Niger. According to the Chairperson, Malcom Evans this is the SPT's "most extensive programme of visits to date".
last updated Nov 25, 2015 On 22 November, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on torture and ill-treatment in Bahrain. The report comes four years after the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) released its report and recommendations to prevent such practices. HRW and other national and international human rights organisations argue that most recommendations still have not been implemented and that the established complaints and investigation mechanisms lack independence and transparency. As a consequence, they observe, detainees still face torture by security forces during interrogations and impunity prevails.
last updated Nov 20, 2015 On 18 November, the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) examined the report of China including Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions. Human Rights organisations raised their voice before the review. Human Rights Watch recognised that several reforms in the criminal justice system took place, but Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, highlighted that “torture remains a daily reality in China” and called for an open discussion at the review. Meanwhile the Chinese Human Rights Defenders reported of reprisals against activists requesting information concerning the report.
last updated Oct 30, 2015 From 21 to 27 October 2015, a delegation of the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) carried out an ad hoc visit to Hungary to examine the treatment and conditions of detention of foreign nationals deprived of their liberty. In Hungary foreign nationals may be detained under aliens legislation or the recently amended criminal legislation establishing a criminal defence for crossing or damaging the border fence. The delegation visited detention centres for foreigners, police detention facilities, a prison and the two “transit zones” located at the border with Serbia. They met with representatives from the state, international orgaisations as well as civil society organisations.
last updated Oct 29, 2015 On 23 October, Amnesty International (AI) published a new report “Paper Promises, Daily Impunity. Mexico´s torture epidemic continues” disclosing that the number of complaints by torture victims has increased while impunity still protects the perpetrators. The relevance of the initiative of the recent drafting of a new General Law on torture is recognised. At the same time AI recalls the importance of effective implementation and monitoring to avoid that this bill “remains one more good intention on paper”.
last updated Oct 29, 2015 On 22 October, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra´ad Al Hussein, criticised the detention conditions and detention policy of the Czech Republic towards migrants and refugees. He expressed his concerns on the violations of human rights of migrants especially of rights of the child. Despite some recent improvements of the “completely unacceptable” conditions in the detention centre Bělá-Jezová, which were revealed last week by the Czech ombudsman, “the basic approach has not changed”, Zeid states.
last updated Oct 16, 2015 On 16 October 2015, eighteen of the main health bodies of Australia issued a joint statement urging the Australian Government to ratify the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). The health bodies said current systems of oversight of detention centres were failing, and needed urgent strengthening
last updated Oct 16, 2015 On 13 October, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, together with representatives from the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR) and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) met governmental officials in Astana and urged them to promptly implement the recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture from 2014.
last updated Oct 13, 2015 From 6 to 9 October 2015, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) visited Turkey to advise the country on setting up its National Preventive Mechanism. In January 2014, Turkey has designated its National Human Rights Institute as NPM but still needs to adopt "a specific law that provides the NPM with a strong mandate and makes it fully operational, functional, independent and well-resourced”, according to the SPT.
last updated Oct 09, 2015 On 8 October 2015, the UN Committee against Torture elected five new members to take up their position in 2016 for a period of four years. The new members are: Ms. Felice Gaer (United States of America), Mr. Abdelwahab Hani (Tunisia), Ms. Ana Racu (Moldova), Mr. Claude Heller Rouassant (Mexico), Mr. Sébastien Touzé (France).
last updated Oct 08, 2015 On 7 October, the United Nations launched the Revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, called 'Nelson Mandela Rules'. At a high-level presentation in New York, the UN Secretray General welcomed the Mandela Rules as "a great step forward" while also drawing attention to some areas that would need to be strengthened.
last updated Oct 08, 2015 On 7 October, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, presented his preliminary findings to the follow-up visit to Ghana. The four day visit followed up his official mission to the country from 8 to 14 November 2013. Mr. Mendez has welcomed Ghana for the steps taken to combat torture while saying that much remains to be done.
last updated Oct 05, 2015 From 4 to 7 October 2015 the UN Special Rapportuer on Torture (UNSRT), Juan Méndez, carries out a follow-up visit to Ghana to discuss and assess the implementation of his recommendations issued after his mission in November 2013.
last updated Jul 06, 2015 Human rights organisations raise their concerns on the call of Eduardo Cunha, President of the Brazilian House of Representatives, to revote on the proposal to lower the age at which juveniles can be prosecuted as adults from 18 to 16 years.
last updated Jun 29, 2015 UN experts remind States of their obligations to guarantee international human rights standards also for migrants. At the same time, Amnesty International (AI) reports of conditions in immigrantion detention facilities that are significantly falling “below international and national standards and may amount to inhuman or degrading treatment.”
last updated Jun 26, 2015 On the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights (BIM) and the Human Rights Implementation Centre at the University of Bristol (HRIC) publish their study on enhancing the impact of torture prevention mechanisms operating in the EU, which highlights the need for a strategic, impact-oriented approach to strengthen follow-up on their recommendations.
last updated Jun 22, 2015 A new report by Amnesty International discloses shortcomings of the authorities of the United States in the implementation of international standards regarding the use of lethal forces by the police.
last updated Jun 22, 2015 Amnesty International reports of 84 children who are illegally detained for six months. They were arrested in the course of a school raid by Cameroon's authorities where several teachers were accused of running terrorist training camps.
last updated Jun 15, 2015 Amnesty International urges UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to reassert Uzbekistan's obligations under international human rights law in order to fight torture and other human rights abuses.
last updated Jun 09, 2015 The Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea reports that torture, disappearances, forces labour, sexual violence and extrajudicial executions are widespread and sysemtatic in Eritrea.
last updated Jun 09, 2015 A new bill which would reduce the number of children deprived of liberty in the adult criminal justice system is up for vote in Florida's full Senate and House.
last updated May 26, 2015 The Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) presented its preliminary observations to the Guatemalan authorities and called for the improvement of independent monitoring bodies.
last updated May 26, 2015 The UN Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners were revised at the 24th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna and are now to be named "Mandela Rules" in honour of former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela.
last updated May 11, 2015 UN human rights experts welcome the judgement of the Pakistani Supreme Court to suspend all executions imposed by military courts. The system of military courts was established to fight terrorism by the Pakistani authorities but has been heavily criticised since then for its lack of compliance with international human rights standards.
last updated May 11, 2015 From 16 to 24 April 2015, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) conducted a monitoring visit to Azerbaijan. The original visit was planned for September 2014 but had to be suspended due to a lack of cooperation by the Azerbaijani authorities.
last updated May 11, 2015 A group of health professionals and human rights activists published a new report, in which they accuse the American Psychological Association (A.P.A.) of secretly collaborating with the US Government under former President George W. Bush to enable the authorities to argue that their “enhanced interrogation methods” programme in the "War on Terror" did not constitute torture.
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last updated Apr 20, 2015 Brutal police beatings of peaceful protesters in Harare demonstrating against xenophobic violence in South Africa show “a complete disregard for the rule of law and a culture of impunity” by the Zimbabwean polices forces, stated Amnesty International (AI). AI therefore urges the Zimbabwean authorities to respect people’s rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
last updated Apr 17, 2015 As part of its campaign “stop torture”, Amnesty International (AI) published a new report on the situation in Uzbekistan stating that “torture is rampant” and part of the system.
last updated Apr 13, 2015 Amnesty International (AI) reported that they received footage of extrajudicial killings of several Ukrainian soldiers by armed rebel groups in the Donbass region. At the same time, a Russian fighter confessed the killings 15 Ukrainian prisoners.
last updated Apr 13, 2015 The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published a report on its latest visiting mission to Spain together with the response of the Spanish authorities. The report focuses on the treatment of irregular migrants deprived of liberty on Spanish territory and shows several grievances.
last updated Apr 09, 2015 Bangladeshi security services proposed to amend the Torture and Custodial Death Prohibition and Prevention Act 2013. The proposed changed would defeat the very purpose of the Act and would be a violation of the UN Convention against Torture (CAT), ratified in 1998, according to the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) and the organisation Odhikar.
last updated Apr 09, 2015 Italy condemned under article 3 ECHR: the European Court of Human Rights just found that ill-treatment committed by the Italian police in the Diaz-Pertini school amounted to ‘torture’ and that Italian criminal legislation concerning the punishment of acts of torture is inadequate.
last updated Apr 02, 2015 The human rights activist and regime dissident Itai Dzamara was kidnapped on 9 March, allegedly by Zimbabwean state forces, and remains missing since then. Human rights groups, the European Union as well as the United States are demanding his immediate release and are deeply concerned about his physical and psychological integrity.
last updated Mar 23, 2015 Since December 2014, when Pakistan’s authorities reversed the death penalty moratorium, 48 people were executed. 8000 people still remain on death row, including several hundreds who were convicted for crimes committed as juveniles. UN experts criticised this practice as a violation of several international human rights treaties to which Pakistan is legally bound . Last week, Muhammad Afza, who reportedly was 16 at the time of the offense, was executed despite interventions by human rights groups.
last updated Mar 23, 2015 Juan E. Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (UNSRT), presented his preliminary findings of his latest country visit to Georgia.
last updated Mar 18, 2015 The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture presented to the Human Rights Council his latest thematic report on juveniles in detention, in which he concludes that “the detention of children is inextricably linked – in fact if not in law – with the ill-treatment of children, owing to the particularly vulnerable situation in which they have been placed that exposes them to numerous types of risk.”
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last updated Mar 02, 2015 The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published a new report on the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan, in which it welcomed a decrease of 14% in the practice of torture and ill-treatment compared to the previous reporting period two years ago. However, further steps need to be done since one third of the Afghanistan’s detainees are still exposed to torture and ill-treatment.
last updated Feb 24, 2015 The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) examined reports on the treatment of detainees at the main immigration detention centre on the Bahamas and concluded that the detention conditions under which people are deprived of liberty amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
last updated Feb 24, 2015 The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, urged the Syrian authorities to immediately take steps to end the continuing use of torture by Syrian security forces. Amnesty International (AI) also voiced their concern about the systematic use of torture by Syrian opposition armed groups including ISIS.
last updated Feb 17, 2015 The Australian Human Rights Commission published a report on children in immigration detention, in which it criticised the Australian government for its constant failure to adequately adopt international standards in the treatment of detained children of migrants and asylum seekers.
last updated Feb 17, 2015 Amnesty International accuses the Iranian authorities of violating human rights law by executing the now 22-year old Saman Naseem. He was convicted for taking part in armed activities against the state, a crime which he was forced to confess under torture when he was 17 years old.
last updated Feb 09, 2015 In the beginning of February, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) published its Concluding Observations on the treatment of children in Iraq and accused the militant forces of the so-called ISIS to systematically abuse, torture and kill children.
last updated Feb 02, 2015 Amnesty International (AI) reports about the “wheel of torture”, which was discovered in a secret detention centre in the Philippines and used by police officers for their own “torture show”. It is one of the latest discoveries in the endemic practice of torture and ill-treatment on detainees by the Philippines’ authorities.
last updated Jan 19, 2015 After a six-year struggle with the US-authorities, Mohamedou Ould Slahi published his book “Guantánamo Diary” in which he describes his daily life at Guantánamo prison. Mohamedou, who is still detained at Guantánamo, exposes the excessive use of force and ill-treatment by security guards and reveals details of his own torture experiences.
last updated Jan 13, 2015 On 9 January, Raif Badawi, a 30-year old blogger from Saudi Arabia was flogged 50 times in front of a mosque in Jeddah for establishing an online platform to promote political and religious discussions.
last updated Dec 10, 2014 The 10 December 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Convention has currently 156 ratifications, and is considered as one of the core international human rights treaties.
last updated Dec 10, 2014 The long expected report about the CIA’s torture methods of the Senate Intelligence Committee was published on Tuesday. The US authorities were therefore stepping up their security measures in US facilities around the world to prevent possible security attacks, which they fear as a reaction on the report.
last updated Dec 01, 2014 Morocco acceded to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) on 24 November 2014 and became its 76th State party. The State, which was visited by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez in 2012, will assign to the National Human Rights Council (CNDH) the National Preventive Mechanism under OPCAT. With the accession to OPCAT Morocco is one of the pioneers in the region of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the fourth State party, after Lebanon, Tunisia and Mauritania.
last updated Dec 01, 2014 The Committee against Torture published its Concluding Observations on the situation of torture and ill-treatment in the United States. In light of the recent incidents of police shootings, the Committee criticised the numerous reports of police brutality and excessive use of force by police forces.
last updated Nov 24, 2014 Amnesty International (AI) released a new report in which it accuses the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and torture of its political critics. In turn, the government rejects the report as “one-sided and inaccurate”.
last updated Nov 22, 2014 In 2006, four policemen were found to have tortured an asylum seeker, Mr. Bakary J., after he forcefully resisted his deportation. They were sentenced to eight and six months imprisonment. Bakary J. is now seeking compensation money for his suffering as torture victim. Parallel to this, three of the four police officers are requesting to reopen the case because of newly discovered “discrepancies”.
last updated Nov 19, 2014 In 2009, the Anti-Torture Act was passed by the Government of the Philippines, a landmark for the recognition of human rights in the country according to several international human rights organisations. For the first time, the Philippine legislation encompassed a law which constitutes torture as a separated crime and provides regulations to adequately redress victims of torture and other ill-treatment.
last updated Nov 19, 2014 Two UN Special Rapporteurs conducted their first visit to Gambia. Although they followed an invitation of the Gambian Government, they were prevented from completing their fact-finding mission due to denied access to a prison facility.
last updated Nov 03, 2014 The Human Rights Committee (HRC) published its new General Comment on Article 9 the right to liberty and security of person of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In its General Comment No.35, the HRC discussed several issues related to Article 9 including, amongst others, the definition of arbitrary detention, procedural safeguards, detention in armed conflicts, and the states duty’s regarding persons deprived of liberty.
last updated Oct 20, 2014 Amnesty International (AI) reported that at any given time approximately 80.000 people are detained in solitary confinement in the prison facilities of the United States (US). AI stated that no other country is known to keep more detainees in isolation.
last updated Oct 20, 2014 The Austrian newspaper Falter published an article in which it accuses the Austrian authorities to repeatedly fail to adequately investigate and respond to several cases of ill-treatment of detainees by prison staff including the case of the 74-year old mentally challenged detainee who was neglected for months until the prison guards noticed a decay scent.
last updated Sep 29, 2014 Several newspapers reported the abusive and inhuman treatment of asylum seekers by security forces in refugee homes in Germany. Chief of Police Frank Richter stated that “these are pictures that we only know from Guantanamo”.
last updated Sep 29, 2014 Amnesty International (AI) published a new report in which it described the increasing trade of Chinese law enforcement equipment that is inherently inhuman and cruel and should therefore be banned. The report “China’s Trade in Tools of Torture and Repression” details the flourishing and lucrative manufacture and export of potential torture tools by Chinese companies and its use worldwide.
last updated Sep 29, 2014 In June 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Council established a Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea to investigate allegations of human rights abuses. Last week, the appointment of the members of the Commission, namely Mike Smith, Victor Dankwa and Sheila Keetharuth was announced by the President of the Human Rights Council.
last updated Sep 22, 2014 Amnesty International (AI) published a new report of the alarming situation of the routine use of torture and ill-treatment by security forces and stated that torture is “an integral part of policing in Nigeria.“