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Torture prevention in Niger: visible progress but challenges remain – UN experts

GENEVA / NIAMEY (6 February 2017) – Niger has made progress in preventing torture and ill-treatment but the challenge of establishing a National Preventive Mechanism remains, UN experts have said.

The comments came at the end of a high level advisory visit to Niger by the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT).

During their mission, which took place from 29 January to 4 February 2017, the experts visited places of detention in the Niamey region and advised the Niger authorities on the prevention of torture under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).

"The ratification of the OPCAT in November 2014 paved the way for the designation of a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to monitor places of detention. Niger has shown political commitment at the highest levels to prevent torture and ill treatment and now must focus on establishing an independent, efficient and well-resourced NPM,” said the head of the SPT delegation, Catherine Paulet, at the end of the visit.

The UN experts noted that the National Human Rights Commission is currently officially mandated to monitor places of detention.

"The SPT does not prescribe any specific structure or model for the NPM. Niger authorities must take a decision depending on its own national context but we are here to guide and advise through the process," stressed Catherine Paulet.

The delegation also noted that much remains to be done in terms of improving conditions of detention, reducing overcrowding in prisons and the excessive use of pretrial detention.

During the visit, the SPT met with high-level government officials, including the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, the Minister of Justice, as well as officials of the court and public prosecution, and the President of the National Human Rights Commission. The delegation also met with representatives of international organizations, civil society, the Bar Association and the Order of Physicians.

The Subcommittee will submit its confidential report to the Government of the Republic of Niger, containing its observations and recommendations arising from the visit. However, States parties are encouraged to request that the SPT makes these reports public.

The SPT was represented by Catherine Paulet (France), Head of Delegation, Hans-Jörg Bannwart (Switzerland), Head of the Regional Team for Africa, Joachim Kodjo (Togo), Rapporteur on Niger and Radhia Nasraoui (Tunisia).

ENDS

Background

To date, the OPCAT has been ratified by 83 states. States are under the obligation to allow the SPT unannounced and unhindered visits to all places where persons are deprived of their liberty. States Parties should also establish a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), which should conduct regular visits to places of deprivation of liberty throughout the country.

The mandate of the SPT is to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of persons deprived of their liberty through visits and recommendations to States parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

The SPT is composed of 25 independent and impartial experts from different regions of the world. The SPT communicates its recommendations and observations to States by means of a confidential report and, where necessary, to national preventive mechanisms. However, States parties are encouraged to request that the SPT publish the reports.

More information about the SPT here.

For media inquiries or for more information, please contact:
Nicoleta Panta, +41 22 917 9310 / npanta@ohchr.org

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