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Bolivia: Improve monitoring and tackle high rate of pre-trial detention, UN torture prevention body urges

GENEVA (16 May 2017) – The UN torture prevention body urged Bolivia to focus more on making the body that monitors places of detention fully independent, effective and in line with the country’s international obligations.

The call came at the end of the second visit to Bolivia by the Subcommittee on prevention of Torture (SPT), when the delegation presented its confidential preliminary observations to the Bolivian authorities.

During its 9-day stay in the country, the SPT conducted visits to 23 places of deprivation of liberty throughout the country. Among these were police stations, prisons, centres for juveniles, judicial cells as well as a psychiatric hospital.

Members of the delegation carried out private and confidential interviews with law enforcement officials, medical staff and persons deprived of their liberty.

The delegation met with government officials, including the Constitutional Tribunal, indigenous authorities, representatives of civil society and UN agencies. The SPT met and conducted joint visits with Bolivia’s designated detention monitoring body known as SEPRET.

“While recognizing the work of SEPRET, we are concerned that its independence is compromised by its subordination by law under the Ministry of Justice. Functional and administrative independence of National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) is a fundamental provision of OPCAT* and it’s a safeguard element which determines their real effectiveness,” said Emilio Ginés Santidrián, who headed the delegation.

During their visit, the SPT delegation also followed up on its recommendations from 2010.

Pre-trial detention in the country still amounts to 70 percent of the prison population and has a direct impact on overcrowding.

“We recognize that changes have been made to the country's political, institutional and social structures. However, more needs to be done to translate these changes into reality and strengthen prevention of torture,” said Mr. Ginés.

Following the visit, the SPT will submit a confidential report to the Government of Bolivia, containing its observations and recommendations on prevention of torture and ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty. As with all other States, the SPT is encouraging Bolivia to make its both reports public.

The SPT delegation was composed of Emilio Ginés Santidrián, María Dolores Gómez, Marija Definis-Gojanovic and Victor Zaharia.

ENDS

For media inquiries, please contact
Nicoleta Panta, +41 (0) 22 /917 9310 /  npanta@ohchr.org

Background

The SPT’s role is to prevent and eliminate torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment of detainees, and it has a mandate to visit all States that are parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

*The OPCAT is a unique international human rights treaty which assists States to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

For the SPT, the key to preventing torture and ill-treatment lies in building constructive relations with the State concerned, and its guiding principles are co-operation and confidentiality.

The Optional Protocol on the Prevention of Torture has to date been ratified by 83 countries. The SPT communicates its recommendations and observations to the State by means of a confidential report, and if necessary to National Preventive Mechanisms. However, State parties are encouraged to request that the SPT makes these reports public. You can find more information about the SPT here.  

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