GENEVA (11 March 2020) - The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) has suspended its visit to Argentina in view of the current situation caused by the coronavirus (Covid-19), and also postponed other upcoming missions.
The SPT delegation followed all the UN and local rules regarding the coronavirus outbreak prior to and at the start of the visit to Argentina, which began on 9 March. However, given the rapid evolution of the situation in the country as well as globally, the delegation was unable to fulfil its mandate. The SPT therefore decided on 10 March to suspend the mission, mindful of the “do no harm” principle.
“We will aim to resume our visit to Argentina as soon as conditions allow, especially given our concern at the challenges the country faces with regard to the prevention of torture, ill-treatment and conditions of detention. We are ready to support Argentina in the fulfilment of its obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), and also to support its national preventive mechanisms,” said Carmen Comas-Mata, head of the delegation.
The SPT, which visits places where people are deprived of their liberty, has also decided to postpone its next planned missions to Bulgaria, Australia and Nauru, which were due to take place in March and April.
This is done to fully ensure that, under the “do no harm” principle, there are no negative consequences arising from a visit by the SPT to places of detention. The missions to these countries will be re-scheduled as soon as feasible to minimise the impact on the SPT’s monitoring work.
However, national monitoring bodies, officially known as National Preventive Mechanisms (NPM) should, whenever possible under the current circumstances, continue their preventive visits, including, if required, to places of quarantine, as indicated in the SPT’s latest advice.
“We look forward to resuming our normal activities as part of our work to prevent torture and ill-treatment and improve detention conditions worldwide. The prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is absolute, including under the current circumstances, and the rights of persons deprived of liberty cannot be endangered, so we must be able to carry out our preventive mandate as soon as possible,” said Sir Malcolm Evans, the SPT chairperson.
Background: The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture monitors States parties’ adherence to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which to date has been ratified by 90 countries. The Subcommittee is made up of 25 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. The Subcommittee has a mandate to undertake visits to States parties, during the course of which it may visit any place where persons may be deprived of their liberty.
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