Benin prisons: Urgent steps needed to alleviate suffering in detention, UN experts say
18 January 2016
GENEVA (18 January 2016) – Benin should immediately tackle overcrowding to alleviate the suffering of detainees and improve general conditions of detention, the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) has said after visiting the country.
“Benin has made some progress since our previous visit in 2008 but much remains to be done. Most of the detention centres we visited were overcrowded and lacked adequate staffing and other resources, while conditions in Abomey prison were inhumane and shocking,” said Victor Madrigal Borloz, who headed the five-member SPT delegation. “In our discussions with the Government of Benin, we made it clear that to avoid extreme suffering, it is both essential and urgent to improve detainees’ access to water and food, deal with unhygienic conditions and reduce overcrowding,” Mr. Madrigal Borloz said.
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 Benin from 11 to 15 January. The delegation carried out unannounced visits in Abomey and Cotonou and the Porto-Novo region to four police stations (one gendarmerie post and three commissariats), three civilian prisons and one centre for juveniles, examining to what degree their recommendations made after the 2008 visit had been implemented.
The SPT members noted that the new penal procedure code, including the requirement that a person must be presented to a judicial authority within 48 hours of being arrested, has resulted in some improvements regarding the treatment of detainees.
Benin became a party to OPCAT in September 2006 and under its treaty obligation should have established an independent monitoring body, termed a National Preventive Mechanism, within a year.
“We strongly encourage Benin to establish a National Preventive Mechanism, as an important tool in improving detention conditions and preventing the torture and ill-treatment of detainees,” said Mr. Madrigal Borloz.
Following the visit, the SPT will submit a confidential report to the Government of Benin, 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 Benin to make this report public.
The SPT delegation was composed of Victor Madrigal Borloz (Costa Rica), Gnambi Kodjo (Togo), Paul Lam Shang Leen (Maurice), Radhia Nasraoui (Tunisia) and Catherine Paulet (France).
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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).
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.