Implementation of the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture: The system of visits to detention centres spreads around the world !
Paris, 19 June 2006
FIACAT welcomes this development which establishes a universal mechanism for preventive visits to detention centres.
This will become official on 22 June 2006, immediately after the opening of the first session of the new UN Human Rights Council and shortly before 26 June, International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
An innovative system
Twenty States, and this number will soon be added to, now employ a system of regular visits to detention centres by national and international experts in order to prevent torture and ill-treatment. The system is extremely innovative in that it has brought in a new international organ (the Sub-Committee on Prevention) and an obligation for States to establish free-style national mechanisms of complementary visits.
The Protocol takes into account regional activities of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT). All 45 Member States of the Council of Europe are already subject to preventive checks, but have not yet imposed a national system.
Stakes for the future
As one discredited Commission on Human Rights was making way for the new Human Rights Council, and as many more voices were making themselves heard, denouncing increasingly open violations of the absolute prohibition of torture, it was the determined efforts of just two low-profile States, viz Bolivia and Honduras - in the wake of eighteen others - which finally enabled the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture to come into force .
As for the other members, 26  are party to the Convention Against Torture while India has only signed it and Malaysia and Pakistan have not. With regards to Nigeria, we must remember that when the General Assembly decided to adopt the Protocol on 18 December 2002, Nigeria voted against, as did the United States, the Marshall Islands and Palau.
Council members must lead by example and ratify the Protocol with the minimum of delay. FIACAT will work hard to ensure this and strongly supports the establishment of a network of "visiting organs" over the next few years, to allow ordinary civilians to become more involved.