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Preventing torture a shared priority for the region

Graphic: Boots of detention centre officials

NHRIs from across the region demonstrated their commitment to protecting the rights of people in detention at the APF’s Third Biennial Conference.

National human rights institutions (NHRIs) from across the Asia Pacific demonstrated their commitment to preventing torture and protecting the rights and dignity of people in detention at the APF's Third Biennial Conference, held in Ulaanbaatar on 28 August 2015.

The conference was formally opened by the President of Mongolia, Mr Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, who urged participants to be strong in their defence of fundamental human rights.

Representatives from a range of APF members – including Afghanistan, Bangladesh India, Indonesia, Mongolia, New Zealand and Palestine – gave updates on their work in the following focus areas:

  • Preventing torture and other forms of ill-treatment in places of detention
  • Monitoring under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT)
  • Engaging law enforcement and security forces.

Graphic: President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj addressing the APF conference

Dr Sima Samar, Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, noted the systematic way in which torture was used in the country, the absence of domestic legislation to prohibit torture and a culture of impunity.

Despite these challenges, Dr Samar said the Commission conducted regular visits to prisons and other places of detention, thoroughly investigated allegations of torture, publicly advocated against torture and called for justice for victims, and conducted training for police and security officials

Ms Nisreen Zerikat, from the Jordan national Centre for Human Rights, said the Karama ("Dignity") initiative it helped established in 2008 – a coalition of government and NGO partners – included a team of 35 people, such as doctors and psychologists, who worked in a personal capacity to monitor places of detention across the country.

She also noted that Karama had been active in reviewing legislation and lobbying for substantial legal reform, including Jordan's ratification of OPCAT.

Leading international and regional civil society organisations, including the Association for the Prevention of Torture, SUARAM and Imparsial, also addressed the APF Conference.

Shahindha Ismail, from the Maldivian Democracy Network, urged NHRIs to collaborate with civil society partners, especially in gathering and compiling information and reports of torture and ill treatment.

Other participants noted the importance of NHRIs releasing timely and independent reports and making public statements to condemn torture, which provides strong encouragement to civil society partners and is a powerful tool for building community awareness.

Graphic: Doctor assisting an inmate at a prison in Jordan

APF Torture Prevention Ambassadors from Korea, Mongolia and Timor Leste provided an overview of the innovative projects that they are currently conducting to prevent torture and ill treatment in their countries.

Around 180 representatives from NHRIs, governments, civil society organisations and UN agencies attended the Conference, which was held on 28 August 2015, and hosted by the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia.

The Fourth APF Biennial Conference, to be held in 2017, will be hosted by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

Presentations from the APF Conference are available on the APF website.

Date: 15 September 2015

Image credits

  1. Boots of detention centre officials - APF/Michael Power
  2. President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj addressing the APF conference - APF/James Iliffe
  3. Doctor assisting an inmate at a prison in Jordan - APF/Michael Power