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[HRC 8] Declaration submitted by FIACAT and ACAT Benin - UPR Benin

June 2008

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Declaration submitted by the International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT), a non-governmental organisation with special consultative status, and ACAT Benin, for item 6 at the eighth session of the Human Rights Council (2 to 18 June 2008)

First Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Benin [1]

The International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT) and ACAT Benin have provided input for the first Universal Periodic Review of Benin by means of a written contribution on the situation with regard to torture and ill-treatment in Benin’s prisons.

On the criminalisation of torture:

FIACAT welcomes the targeted questions posed to Benin and the recommendations concerning:
the need for Benin’s Criminal Code to list torture as a criminal offence, in accordance with Article 1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture (Canada, United Kingdom);
the admissibility in court of evidence obtained under torture (Denmark);
investigating and prosecuting individuals suspected of committing acts of torture, especially in places of detention (Canada, Denmark);
impunity for law enforcement officials (Canada, United Kingdom).

However, the government’s response has proved unsatisfactory. Benin has merely emphasised the need to implement the recommendations of the United Nations Committee against Torture.

Since March 2001 the Criminal Code Bill has been before the National Assembly, which has been postponing scrutiny thereof from session to session for more than seven years.
Moreover, the Bill for a new Criminal Code does not list torture as a separate offence. It is, therefore, absolutely imperative that the members of the National Assembly amend the Bill to make torture a criminal offence in accordance with Article 1 of the Convention.

On places and conditions of detention:

FIACAT welcomes the targeted questions posed to Benin and the recommendations concerning:
prison overcrowding (Denmark);
the excessive length of detention in custody (Denmark);
the lack of access to treatment in prison (Denmark);
establishment of an effective and independent national preventive mechanism pursuant to the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture (United Kingdom, Denmark).

That said, the very vague replies by Benin have not provided all the necessary explanations. The Government of Benin has identified prison overcrowding and the lack of food for detainees as the main problems. As a result, its sole response to the problems surrounding detention conditions is to build ten new prisons in the next two years.
FIACAT views this response as inadequate and would have liked clarifications on the following points:

- Building extra prisons is not the only solution for tackling the problem of prison overcrowding and its consequences, as the increase in the prison population is continuing to outstrip the number of places. FIACAT would have liked to see a commitment to move towards alternatives to prison sentences, especially in respect of persons convicted of minor offences or those held in preventive custody for several years.

- FIACAT would have expected an undertaking from Benin to establish, at the earliest opportunity, a mechanism for visits to detention centres, in line with the obligations laid down in the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture. Furthermore, non-governmental organisations working in the human rights field should enjoy access to detention centres.

- Benin has not responded to the questions concerning access to treatment for detainees. FIACAT would have liked to have seen an undertaking from Benin to guarantee persons in custody access to a doctor, free of charge where need be for persons with no means.

On the death penalty:

FIACAT welcomes the targeted questions posed to Benin and the recommendations concerning:
implementation by Benin of UNGA Resolution A/C.3/62/L.29 calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty (United Kingdom);
abolition of the death penalty under Benin’s criminal law (Denmark, France, United Kingdom, Holy See, Italy);
ratification of the Second Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Mexico).
The response by the Government of Benin has been particularly vague, with its representative merely announcing that the moratorium on the death penalty would become "official policy" in Benin.
On 17 November 2007 Benin’s Minister for Justice, Legislation and Human Rights, Mr Gustave Anani Cassa, told the Committee against Torture that a multi-disciplinary committee was working on a text on the possible abolition of the death penalty under domestic law. At that time he undertook to bring Benin’s law into line with its international commitments in that regard.
FIACAT would have liked an undertaking from Benin to abolish the death penalty at the earliest opportunity and ratify the Second Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

FIACAT therefore calls on the Government of Benin to accept recommendations 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 23.


Footnotes

[1] The national coordination body of ACAT Benin (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture), a member of FIACAT, shares the views expressed in this declaration.

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