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Torture prevention: UN experts urge Chile to establish national body to monitor places of detention

SANTIAGO (14 April 2016) – UN experts have ended a visit to Chile by urging the Chilean authorities to proceed with establishing a national independent body to monitor places of detention.

“Having a body able to carry out such work at the national level is a vital first step on the road towards preventing torture and ill-treatment in detention,” said Lorena González Pinto, who headed a delegation from the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT).

The SPT, which monitors how States that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) are meeting their treaty obligations, was in Chile from 4 to 13 April.

Chile ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in December 2008, under which it should have set up a monitoring body known as a National Preventive Mechanism within a year.

The experts voiced concern at the delay in establishing such a mechanism but recognised the engagement of Chile in tackling the torture and ill-treatment of people in detention. In particular, they congratulated the Chilean authorities for leading the Initiative against Torture that promotes technical assistance to States for the ratification and implementation of the Convention against Torture.

“We have found the visit very enlightening and believe it lays the groundwork for future progress in improving the conditions and treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in Chile, including vulnerable groups, such as women, juveniles, indigenous peoples and LGBTI,” said Ms. González Pinto.

During their visit, the experts visited 22 places in Antofagasta, Santiago, Quillota, Temuco, Valdivia and Valparaiso, including police stations, public and privately-run prisons, detention cells in the tribunals, facilities for juveniles and a psychiatric hospital.

The SPT members had private and confidential interviews with detained people, law enforcement officials and medical staff. They also met high-level officials, including President Michelle Bachelet, members of Congress, the President of the Supreme Court, the head of the National Human Rights Institution and representatives of civil society.

At the end of the visit, the SPT delegation presented their confidential preliminary observations to the Chilean Government on how to strengthen the protection of persons deprived of their liberty against torture and cruel, in human or degrading treatment or punishment.

“We had excellent co-operation from the Chilean authorities in facilitating the visit, including in ensuring the unrestricted access to places of detention, and look forward to working with them further,” said Ms. González Pinto.

The SPT delegation was Lorena González Pinto (Guatemala), Roberto Michel Feher Pérez (Uruguay), Enrique Andrés Font (Argentina) and Emilio Ginés Santidrián (Spain).

ENDS

For media inquiries, please contact:
Yulia Babuzhina +41 79 444 4078/  ybabuzhina@ohchr.org
Santiago : Maria Jeannette Moya  + 56 979996907 /  mmoya@ohchr.org
Geneva: Liz Throssell, +41 (0) 22 917 9466/ +41 79 752 0488 / ethrossell@ohchr.org

BACKGROUND:  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 visiting, monitoring and advising all States that are parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). To date, the OPCAT has been ratified by 81 States.

States are obliged to allow the SPT unannounced and unhindered access to all places where people are or may be deprived of their liberty. States parties also have to establish a National Preventive Mechanism, which is expected to carry out regular monitoring visits of places of deprivation of liberty in all parts of the country.

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 cooperation and confidentiality.

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

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