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Workshop on Implementation of the UNCAT and its Optional Protocol in the Maldives


Thursday, February 15, 2007

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The purpose of this recent seminar was to prevent torture and ill-treatment in the Maldives through the implementation of the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) and its Optional Protocol. It brought together representatives from various government agencies (eg. Police Service,  Department of Penitenciaries, Ministry of Foreign Affairs), the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and NGOs (Journey, Hama Jamiyya, Detainee Network). 

Date: 24-26 April 2007 
Place: Maldives 
Partners: Asia Pacific Forum of NHRI, Maldives Human Rights Commission, Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maldives Ministry of Home Affairs, Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Purpose: To prevent torture and ill-treatment in the Maldives through the implementation of the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) and its Optional Protocol 
Main Activities: The seminar brought together representatives from various government agencies (eg. Police Service,  Department of Penitenciaries, Ministry of Foreign Affairs), the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and NGOs (Journey, Hama Jamiyya, Detainee Network).  

While the first day of the seminar focused on the substantive obligations of States parties under the UN Convention against Torture and the work of the various bodies which are part of the UN anti-torture system, the second and third days concentrated on the very concept of preventive visits to places where people are deprived of their liberty (see program).  

Ms Suraina Pasha, from the APF Secretariat gave a presentation on the Reference of Torture which had been drafted by the Advisory Council of Jurists in preparation for the 2005 annual meeting of the APF, which was held in Ulanbataar, Mongolia. On that occasion, participants debated and finally adopted that report, which contains a number of recommendations for further engagement of the NHRIs of the Asia-Pacific region in the field of torture prevention, as well as a set of Minimum Interrogation Standards for law enforcement agencies.  Although the HRCM was not part of the APF at the time, the content of the report is highly relevant and will be taken into consideration now that the HRCM is trying to increase its activities in the area of detention monitoring.

Although it cannot be denied that the legislative reform package which has been prepared in the last months represents a big improvement over existing laws, there is still room for progress, as was pointed out by APT delegates, who highlighted areas of concern that the UN Committee against Torture is likely to take up when the Maldives appears before it for the examination of its initial report. Regarding the Optional Protocol to the UNCAT (OPCAT), which was discussed during Day 2, the APT insisted on the importance of addressing this issue in a pragmatic way, looking at existing visiting structures and assessing their level of compliance with the Protocol, in light of the fact that the Maldives should have identified its NPM by 22 June 2007.  Finally, the last day was dedicated to the practical aspects of the monitoring functions, in the presence of representatives of visiting structures and authorities which are to let those visiting teams enter their premises.
Outcome: Together with the participants, the APT was able to suggest changes likely to make the new pieces of legislation referred to above (eg. Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Prisons Bill) compliant with the requirements of the UN Convention against Torture. Furthermore, the discussion on the shape that the National Preventive Mechanism ought to take in the Maldives under the OPCAT allowed participants to discuss the options which are being considered, namely to designate the Human Rights Commission as NPM or create a new body to take on that role.

Upon its return to Geneva, the APT delegation summarized the main conclusions which emerged during the workshop in a written note, and submitted a number of recommendations to the government, in an attempt to take this process forward. 

Although the decision to amend legislation and report to the relevant UN treaty bodies on the implementation of both the Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol ultimately lies with the government, the APT has reiterated its desire to continue to provide advice whenever deemed opportune by the authorities. It also intends to maintain contact with both the Human Rights Commission and the NGO community to strenghten their capacity to contribute to the prevention of torture and to make a significant contribution to the reporting exercice.
Documents: Event Program
Contact Person: 

Philippe Tremblay, APT Asia-Pacific Programme Officer

ptremblay@apt.ch

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