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The Fourth East European Conference on National Preventive Mechanisms

21.11.12 | Mary Kolokolova

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On November 15-16th, 2012 in Odessa the Fourth East European Conference on National Preventive Mechanisms Against Tortures and Ill-treatment was held by Kharkiv Institute for Social Researches with support of OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine and with organizational assistance of Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights.
Around 40 delegates from national authorities and civil organizations and foreign NPMs participated in the Conference. Representatives from Poland, Slovenia, Serbia, Hungary, Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine shared their experience in implementation of NPM. Dr. Matthew Pringle – a leading expert in promotion of NPMs in Europe and Central Asia of the Association for the Prevention of Tortures (Geneva, Switzerland) – also visited the Conference.
Together with representatives of foreign NPMs, problems of the future work of the Ukrainian mechanism against tortures were actively discussed by representatives of NGOs and public authorities – Ministry of Interior of Ukraine, Ministry of Health, State Border Guard Service, State Penitentiary Service, Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, Ministry of Education, Science, Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Defense and other authorities, which have custodial settings under their jurisdiction.
The Conference was solemnly opened by Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Mrs. Valeria Lutkovska, Coordinator of the Rule of Law Unit, OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine Mr. Stanislav Shevchuk and Director of Kharkiv Institute for Social Researches Mr. Denys Kobzin.
The central topic of the conference was discussion on the newly established national preventive mechanism in Ukraine: on October, 2nd, 2012 Ukrainian Parliament adopted a Law of Ukraine «On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine «On the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights (concerning realization of the national preventive mechanism)». According to the new Law Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights is entrusted with functions of the national preventive mechanism against torture, together with representatives from civil society (so-called model "ombudsman+").Within two days delegates of the Conference were discussing the issues of establishing the national preventive mechanisms against torture and ill-treatment in their countries, sharing experiences of different NPM models’ functioning, talking about problems of interacting with authorities and public.
The Representative of the Commissioner, Chief of the NPM Division Yuriy Belousov highlighted the history of the Ukrainian NPM, results for the six months operation of the Division, which has currently conducted 136 visits, basic problems in custodial settings subordinated to different ministries.

Deputy Ombudsman of Slovenia Ivan Selih spoke about features of NPM’s functioning in his country, where it also works as a model of "ombudsman +", namely based on the interaction between the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman and 5 NGOs selected at public tender. Mr. Selih openly talked about both achievements of Slovenian NPM and shortcomings of its five-year operation. Among the first he pointed out the close cooperation with the public, openness, transparency of NPM, monitoring coverage of different categories of custodial settings, concrete improvements of conditions at all visited institutions, developed a methodology and toolkit of visits etc. In addition, he focused on such issues as: big unpaid workload for the Ombudsman’s employees on the NPM team, number of custodial settings, lack of interest and competence of NGOs and members of the public, lack of motivation on the part of the NGOs, etc.

Especially we want to mention an impressive report of Deputy Ombudsman of Serbia Milos Jankovic, which was illustrated with photos from the monitoring visits in Serbian prisons and police stations. Discussions about reporting management of the establishments visited and relevant ministries were also interesting, as in Serbia reports contain information about irregularities together with reference to the relevant standards of conditions in different custodial settings.
A representative of Association for the Prevention of Torture Dr. Matthew Pringle reported on the various models of NPM operating in Europe and Asia, problems and prospects of their development. The second Dr. Pringle’s presentation was dedicated to the Global Forum on the Optional Protocol, which was held in Geneva last year. The focus of the presentation was made on the issue of the efficiency of different national preventive mechanisms –questions of credibility, legitimacy, transparency and the participation of the civil sector in the prevention of ill-treatment.
The conference was attended by the Director of the NPM Department of Human Rights Defender of Poland Justyna Lewandowska, whose report was devoted mainly to problems of Polish NPM.
Legal officer at Hungarian Helsinki Committee Borbala Ivany spoke about the launched process of Hungarian NPM, which, according to the adopted legislation, will start working on 2015. NPM’s model adopted by Hungary is based only on the Ombudsman, and in the future monitoring activities of NGOs will be «informal» in its nature.
Separately we want to note reports from Georgia –Tsira Chanturia(Penal Reform International) and Kyrgyzstan –Ulugbek Azimov (Independent Human Rights Group). Representative of Georgia told about the challenges faced by their NPM, namely exclusion of NGOs from the monitoring, total control of monitoring activity by the Public Defender. The speaker stressed the problem of interaction between civil society and public authorities and not enough transparent nature of the current NPM. The representative of Kyrgyzstan reported about implementation of their national preventive mechanism, which was established only six months ago and about difficult lobby in public authorities.
Director of Kharkiv Institute for Social Researches Denys Kobzin and Director of Association of Independent Monitors Andrew Chernousov raised in their speeches such important issues as tasks and challenges of the newly created NPM and the role of public in the further development of NPM in Ukraine, which caused heated debate among the participants.
The second day was completely devoted to the exchange of experience between Ukrainian and foreign counterparts on national preventive mechanisms. Issues of mandate for visits, cooperation with governmental institutions in various countries, functions of NPM work, methodology, frequency of visits, tracking out recommendations’ implementing, popularization of NPM in society and many others were discussed.
The Conference is important for members of the Ukrainian national preventive mechanism – Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, monitors, representatives of ministries, public, because NPM has just begun its work and a lot of efforts will be required to achieve efficiency of its operation.
Once again we express gratitude to all participants of the Conference, which were actively debating, raising issues and sharing their experience during those two days.

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