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Preventing Torture, Upholding Dignity: from Pledges to Actions

21.11.11 | Denys Kobzin
On November 10-11th, 2011 the global Forum of the Association for Prevention of Torture Preventing Torture, Upholding Dignity: from Pledges to Actions held in Geneva. Kharkiv Institute for Social Researches represented Ukrainian experience in this sphere due to invitation of event arranging committee. We should thank the organizers of the Forum and highly appreciate the enormous work, which they have done, gathering over 300 participants from all over the world. Organizers of the Forum have successfully solved all logistical issues and allowed participants to meet, to speak out and to discuss issues about visiting of custodial institutions.

The leitmotif of many presentations was the indication on the financing gaps for activity of NPM, as well as the activities of CPT and SPT. In addition, several speakers raised the issue of special bodies establishment, which powers would include the evaluation of existing commissions for visiting custodial places. In the same time there was not any discussion about what strategies of influence exist for states that do not follow the recommendations of the NPM and of international commissions of visiting.

As experience of many countries, which representatives spoke out at Forum, the ratification of the Optional Protocol and even establishing of NPM are not the guarantee of regular and independent visits to places of non-liberty. Thus, current NPM in Switzerland includes employees or former employees of state bodies (police, rosecutor’s office, Ministry of Justice), and NPM which have been claimed in Armenia, Moldova and some Latin American countries do not fulfill regularly visiting activity (because of organizational or financial issues). In the same time it should be remembered about the British experience, where visiting a lot of places of non-liberty were carried out even long before developing the Convention and Optional Protocol.

The charismatic presentation by representative of NPM in France monsieur Delarue should be noted separately. Thanks to him discussion was able to rise to absolutely new level, going to philosophical understanding of the role of preventive mechanisms in contemporary society which is torn between desire for more control and human rights protection.

Inara Aldybaevas presentation was also interesting. She represented experience of NPM establishment in Kazakhstan, where the Ministry of Justice does not seek to consider the opinions of non-governmental organizations and establishes the NPM through introduction of powers of its members to the Criminal Procedure Code and the Executive Code. At first sight, it would seem as reasonable initiative, but in fact, it significantly reduces the powers of members of the public monitoring commissions in penal institutions, which had before the right to visit, but also carried a lot of other, equally important work.

Some speakers had focused on the debate about whether NPMs should have functions and authorities to investigate cases of ill-treatment and torture, and some emphasized on the need for greater attention to vulnerable groups (AIDS, drug abusers, and representatives of LGBT).

Unfortunately, representatives of Ukrainian governmental bodies had not found it possible to visit the Forum. They would be able not only be enriched by new experience, but also to observe examples of effective and open cooperation between governmental officials and NGOs from different countries within the programs combating torture and ill-treatment.