Torture Prevention Focus of First Annual Meeting on National Prevention Mechanisms Meeting in Vienna

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Vienna, Austria–(ENEWSPF)–October 14, 2016.  The first OSCE region annual meeting to focus on national prevention mechanisms (NPMs) on torture, organized by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in co-operation with the Geneva-based Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), was held in Vienna on 13 and 14 October 2016.

The meeting, a result of ODIHR’s reinforced efforts to prevent torture in the OSCE region, gathered senior representatives from 32 regional NPMs to take stock of achievements and challenges in the region, 10 years after the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

Malcolm Evans, Chair of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), and Mykola Gnatovskyy, President the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), were among the participants, which was opened by members of the OSCE Permanent Council.

“National Preventive Mechanisms are of key importance for the fight against and prevention of torture in the OSCE region and beyond,” said Ambassador Eberhard Pohl of Germany, the Chairperson of the Permanent Council. “Regretfully, there are still a number of shortcomings in OSCE participating States when it comes to signing and implementing the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and making it effective,” he said, adding that “NPMs as domestic bodies are well-placed to propose preventive measures which are adapted to the situation and challenges in the country.”

“Switzerland strongly believes that the OSCE, as a platform for dialogue and exchange of good practices and experiences, can be valuable in strengthening the prevention of torture throughout the entire OSCE region,” said Ambassador Claude Wild, the Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the OSCE. “This is also why we initiated the first meeting of anti-torture practitioners from the OSCE region during the Swiss OSCE Chairmanship in 2014.”

Stephanie Selg, ODIHR’s Advisor on Torture Prevention, stressed that the event was designed to empower those representing NPMs, to strategically and effectively implement their mandate through exchange of experience and best practices with their peers and other experts on preventive monitoring and through enhanced interaction with other actors, including civil society, ODIHR and OSCE field operations.

Participants discussed questions related to preventive monitoring of detention in the criminal justice system and in places such as psychiatric institutions and social care homes, including the role of monitors in bridging the gap between detention standards and practice.

“I was aware of most challenges, but I was impressed by the achievements: by bringing light to dark places, NPMs continue to change the culture and practice there,” said Barbara Bernath, Chief of Operations, APT.