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Guatemala detention: Improve monitoring, UN torture prevention body urges

GENEVA/GUATEMALA CITY (21 May 2015) – The UN’s torture prevention body has urged Guatemala to improve the independent monitoring of detention conditions in the country as part of efforts to protect people deprived of their liberty against torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The call came at the end of the first visit to Guatemala by the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT), when the four-member delegation presented their confidential preliminary observations to the Guatemalan authorities.

“We hope, and expect, that the Government of Guatemala will use our report to improve conditions in which people may be deprived of their liberty and to guarantee the respect of all legal and procedural safeguards to persons deprived of liberty,” said Felipe Villavicencio, who headed the delegation.

The SPT highlighted the importance of Guatemala’s national independent monitoring body, known at the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), fulfilling its mandate in accordance with Guatemala’s treaty obligations and operating in a way which makes it a model of human rights and the rule of law.

“We are concerned at aspects of the conduct of the NPM and believe that there is a pressing need for it to change the way it works and to address serious internal issues in a public, open and transparent fashion,” said Mr. Villavicencio.

Among the places the experts visited during their 10 days in Guatemala were police stations, pre-trial facilities, prisons, a juvenile detention centre, social care institutions for children and 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 SPT delegation met the relevant authorities, including the Congress, members of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) and representatives of civil society.

Following the visit, the SPT will submit a full confidential report to the Government of Guatemala, 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 Guatemala to make this report public.

The SPT delegation was composed of Felipe Villavicencio Terreros, Roberto Michel Feher Pérez, Enrique Andrés Font and Emilio Ginés Santidrián.

ENDS

For media inquiries, please contact

In Guatemala: Estela Morales, +502 5632-2261 / emorales@ohchr.org

Liz Throssell, +41 (0) 22 917 9466/ ethrossell@ohchr.org

BACKGROUND

The SPT’s role is to prevent torture, 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).

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 78 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.

More about the SPT: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/OPCAT/Pages/OPCATIndex.aspx