Looking forward: Actions for torture prevention actors

This section compiles the ideas for actions to strengthen the role of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and of the NPMs, identified by experts and practitioners during the sessions of the Forum.

The outcome report gathers the main elements of the discussions and the concrete actions that were identified to go from pledges to action:

Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture

The lack of resources is a major challenge for the SPT and it was acknowledged in all the discussions. However, there are still ways that its impact can be enhanced. Practical suggestions made by participants in the Forum included:

  • Adapting methods of engagement and undertake shorter missions involving fewer SPT members and focusing on NPM issues. This was implemented shortly after the Forum with the so-called “SPT advisory visits on NPMs”, the first one in Honduras.
  • Making a better use of the SPT’s political leverage, in particular regarding the processes to designate and establish NPMs.
  • Diversifying the type of places of detention visited, with a greater focus on “non traditional places of detention”, such as psychiatric institutions, social care homes, places of detention for migrants etc. This recommendation was taken into account by the SPT and in a visit to Argentina in April 2012, the SPT visited psychiatric institutions and juvenile detention centres.
  • Strengthening NPMs, through greater guidance, and eventually, an assessment of their effectiveness. The SPT has clearly stated on several occasions that it is not willing to undertake this role.
  • Ensuring follow-up to its visits, with more follow-up visits and engagement with national actors.
  • Reflecting on the boundaries of confidentiality of the SPT mandate
  • Interacting more with a wide range of actors working on torture prevention

National Preventive Mechanisms

The nature and structure of NPMs vary from one country to another, as well as their mandates, effectiveness, working methods and experience – and sometimes – their level of compliance with the OPCAT. This broad diversity emerged during the Forum. However, there are also some common challenges:

  • Independence and the need to be granted with all powers clearly stood out as key requirements in the establishment and mandate of NPMs – whatever their structure is.
  • The need for a strong preventive methodology and to have credibility and legitimacy were deemed essential elements for NPM effectiveness.
  • Also highlighted during the debates were the need for NPMs to cooperate with the authorities in a spirit of dialogue, the importance of raising public awareness on torture prevention, and the role of civil society as a potential ally in preventive .

Finally, some overarching issues for NPMs effectiveness emerged:

  • Being a leader in torture prevention: NPMs should go beyond merely visiting places of detention.
  • Finding a system to assess their effectiveness.
  • Exchanging practices and enabling peer-to-peer exchanges