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Torture & CIDT

Torture is a direct attack against the dignity and integrity of human beings. The prohibition of torture is one of the few absolute and non-derogable human rights. In the present context of counter-terrorism measures, this absolute prohibition is for the first time seriously challenged even in democratic countries. That is why the fight against torture has become again one of the most controversial issues within the international community.

The BIM chose to focus on the thematic area of torture after Manfred Nowak was nominated as UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in 2004; he held this mandate until October 2010. Besides active support during the six years of this mandate, the HuDi Team has conducted extensive research on the phenomenon of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. Examples include work on a commentary on Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights and a comprehensive article-by-article commentary on the UN Convention against Torture (CAT).

The focus on preventing torture was extended beyond the mandate of the Special Rapporteur by implementation of the “Atlas of Torture” project as well as other projects dealing with the use of force by the police, investigation and documentation of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, and the establishment of National Preventive Mechanisms in different countries.

Working towards harmonised detention standards in the EU – the role of National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs)

Judicial cooperation in criminal matters in the EU is based on the principle of mutual recognition and the approximation of laws, i.e. the establishment of common minimum standards. Mutual recognition is based on mutual trust which – as emphasised by the CJEU - does not mean "blind trust" and must not lead to a violation of the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment.

Atlas of Torture: An Information and Cooperation Platform to Fight Torture and Ill-Treatment World-wide

Despite their universal and absolute prohibition, torture and other forms of ill-treatment remain a “global crisis” affecting the majority of States worldwide. At the same time, there is a lack of awareness about the problem. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture stated that we live in a time of “collective amnesia” where official narratives and public beliefs trivialise and even endorse torture in the name of security and the fight against terrorism, forgetting the suffering and damages it causes.

Numerous international and domestic actors are engaged in the fight against torture and ill-treatment through monitoring, research, advocacy, technical assistance, etc. However, there is insufficient access to information on the problem. Good practices and guidelines on prevention are not only inadequately documented, but also receive limited exposure. What is more, information about prevention work remain dispersed across several different sources and inadequately documented.

Moreover, the lack of coordination among the different actors lead to frequent duplications and missing synergies. The potential of internet-based technologies to strengthen the exchange and cooperation as well as providing effective support and learning opportunities needs to be explored further.

For these reasons, the Atlas of Torture website aims to empower organisations and individuals and strengthening the global fight against torture and ill-treatment. It will do so by:

  • Raising awareness on the problem by highlighting how torture and ill-treatment can be prevented through documentation, learning and exchange
  • Ensuring easy access to information
  • Making the work of actors engaged in the fight against torture and ill-treatment more visible
  • Strengthening exchange and cooperation

Ultimately, the website will thus provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ for researchers and practitioners to easily and freely access up-to-date information and strategies for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment.

Strengthening the rights of persons suspected or accused in criminal proceedings – the role of National Human Rights Institutions

Since 2009, the European Union (EU) has adopted a series of key measures on the rights of suspect and accused in criminal proceedings, such as on the right to information, the right to interpretation and translation, the right to access to a lawyer, the right to legal aid, the presumption of innocence and the right to be present at the trial, as well as safeguards for vulnerable persons suspected or accused.

Preventive human rights monitoring in child and adolescent psychiatry and welfare institutions

Neuropsychiatrie 2/17

In their article, Ernst Berger and Caroline Paar offer an overview of the Austrian legal framework regarding monitoring visits to psychiatric hospitals or residential homes/groups for children and juveniles supervised by youth welfare services.

Under OPCAT, six commissions has been assigned with the mandate to visit places of detention as a preventive mechanism against torture and other forms of ill-treatment – to that effect, this includes the facilities mentioned above. The Authors discuss key issues of the monitoring process as well as the commission´s findings and recommendations.

Open access: (in German only)

Buch: Preventive human rights monitoring in child and adolescent psychiatry and welfare institutions
Autor_innen: Paar, Caroline; Berger, Ernst
Springer Verlag, 2017

Academy of European Law: Improving Detention Conditions at EU level

On 1 June 2017, Gerrit Zach will present the “Findings from the ERA-BIM Study on the future of mutual trust and the prevention of ill-treatment: how to improve judicial cooperation and the engagement of national preventive mechanisms” at the seminar organised by the Academy of European Law (ERA) on "Improving Detention Conditions at EU level" in Trier/Germany.

Trier / Germany

Launching Conference of the EU NPM Network in Strasbourg

Presentation of possible thematic areas for the network: Gerrit Zach (BIM), Stephanie Krisper (BIM), Jesca Beneder (DG Justice, European Commission), Markus Jaeger (Council of Europe), Copyrights (c) Council of Europe

National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) from the EU and Council of Europe Member States met in Strasbourg on 4-5 April 2017 for the launching conference of the EU NPM network, a joint project between the European Union and the Council of Europe. Representatives of the SPT, the CPT, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, OSCE/ODIHR and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions were also present.

In response to President Trump: Torture is absolutely prohibited and it does not “work”!

On 26 January, the newly elected President of the United States, Donald Trump, stated in his first TV interview that he would agree to allow waterboarding and possibly other measures considered torture in the fight against terrorism. When asked whether torture works he responded “absolutely it works”, referring to a supposed assessment of intelligence officials. Trump states that “we have to fight fire with fire” and do “everything within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally”.

Consultation Workshop for National Preventive Mechanisms, Vienna, 6-7 June 2016

Group photograph of the participants of the Consultation Workshop for National Preventive Mechanisms

On 6 and 7 June 2016 the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Human Rights hosted in Vienna the second consultation workshop within the framework of the EU-funded project on “strengthening cooperation between the judiciary and torture monitoring bodies in the European Union.” On this occasion, the workshop was directed at representatives of National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs).