Conducting a preventive monitoring visit

Opening up places of detention to outside scrutiny is essential to ensure that the rights of detainees are upheld. What does this mean in practice?

Monitoring bodies have developed a four-step work process:


1. Preparation of the visit

For a visit to take place in the best possible conditions it must be well prepared. Before the visit, the monitors will therefore:

  • Summarise available information about the place to be visited (summary of information obtained during earlier visits or from other sources, capacity of the place, any known problems etc.) and about relevant legislation and public policies
  • Define the specific objectives of the visit
  • Organise the work of the visiting team, prepare forms or questionnaires, define tasks and responsibilities etc and take care of the logistics.


2. On-site objective and professional documentation

The visiting body determines, as exhaustively as possible, the conditions of detention by summarising and triangulating the following elements:

  • The point of view of the authorities, the staff, and the different professionals taking care of the persons deprived of their liberty;
  • The point of view of the persons deprived of their liberty;
  • The point of view of other available sources (lawyers, families of detainees, associations, NGOs);
  • First hand observations by members of the visiting team in the place of detention.


3. Analysis

In a second step, the visiting mechanism analyses whether the conditions of detention conform to national and international standards. Monitoring is about trying to understand the root-causes of any deviations from the standards. These are generally due to a combination of factors, such as:

  • National legislation does not correspond to international standards;
  • The standards are not applied or are only partially applied, because of poor staff training, professional culture at variance with the standards, lack of human or material resources etc.


4. Formulation of recommendations and follow-up

The analysis will then be used to formulate more substantial and pragmatic recommendations, rather than simply pointing out the standards. The monitoring body then has to define a strategy to ensure that recommendations are implemented.

Follow up to a visit

The monitoring visit is not an end in itself but rather the first step in a long-term process of improving the treatment of detainees and the conditions of detention through cooperative dialogue with the authorities. Therefore actions that follow a visit are essential to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

After a visit, the detention monitors should draw up a visit report that includes recommendations. This task should be completed shortly after the visit and the report submitted to the person in charge of the place and if relevant to higher authorities. Reports will have more credibility with the detaining authorities and other interested parties if they are submitted promptly.