Despite political changes undermining human rights in the region, the implementation of safeguards in the first hours of detention and the OPCAT made headway. Thanks to APT’s support, new NPMs started to function in Argentina and Panama, as well as new LPMs in the Brazilian states of Paraiba and Rondônia. NPMs also reinforced their monitoring of police custody. We further contributed to strengthening the role of others in preventing torture, such as judges in Brazil through custody hearings, or public defenders in Mexico.
Against a background of backsliding of democratic values in a wide part of the region, torture prevention stakeholders continued to protect the rights of persons deprived of their liberty, including in immigration detention. We supported them by encouraging strategic discussions among NPMs, NGOs and regional institutions, facilitating peer exchanges, and accompanying NPMs in their efforts to achieve change through monitoring (Kyrgyz Republic) and follow-up to recommendations (Georgia). We also inputted into the revision of key regional policies (EU Guidelines on Torture, European Prison Rules).
Africa, with 22 ratifications, has the second highest number of States parties. In 2018, three NPMs were designated. In Rwanda, a new NHRC law entered into force in September. In Togo, the law designating the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) as NPM was promulgated in June and the Parliament called for NHRI membership applications in September. In Cape Verde, the NHRI was designated as NPM by a Resolution adopted by the Cabinet in September. Therefore, the APT focus in the region was on the effective integration and implementation of the NPM mandate within NHRIs.
The MENA region counts five States parties. Two NPMs were designated in 2018 in both Morocco and Lebanon. We accompanied the Moroccan National Council for Human Rights (CNDH) to integrate its NPM mandate and supported the new Lebanese National Commission for Human Rights with its dual protection/prevention mandate. We also continued to advise the Mauritanian and Tunisian NPMs, including on dialogue around safeguards in detention. In Palestine, we assisted the NPM establishment process. At the regional level, we are building channels of cooperation with the Arab Human Rights Committee of the League of Arab States.
Positive developments in the region were seized by APT, such as first workshop by the ASEAN human rights committee on torture prevention, political change in Malaysia that sets a regional precedent on law reform, strengthening of national oversight and receptiveness to ratify human rights treaties; and regional cooperation of NHRIs. Challenges remain, however: legislative reforms to criminalise torture in Indonesia and Thailand continue to be prolonged due to other pressing national issues; and the 2018 OPCAT ratifications by Australia, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan still require implementation.