GENEVA (6 March 2020) — The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) has announced the visits it plans to undertake in the first half of 2020, including Argentina (9 to 20 March), Bulgaria (22 to 28 March), Australia (29 March to 9 April), Nauru (2 to 5 April) and Madagascar (3 to 9 May).
The dates of these visits were decided during the SPT's 40th confidential session, held in Geneva from 10 to 14 February.
Later in the year, the SPT is due to visit the Central African Republic, Croatia, Lebanon, and Paraguay. Following the reduced number of visits undertaken in 2019, due to financial constraints, the SPT is aiming to carry out the usual number of around 10 visits a year.
During its meeting in Geneva, the SPT also adopted guidelines, requested by the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, on compulsory quarantine for COVID-19.
This advice, which is now available online, states that whilst quarantines are for the public benefit, they must not result in the ill-treatment of those detained, that all fundamental safeguards are respected when they are imposed and that national preventive mechanisms have a role to play in their monitoring.
In other work during its weeklong session, SPT also added Belize and South Sudan, which both ratified the Optional Protocol in 2015, to the list of States that are significantly overdue in establishing an NPM against torture and ill-treatment in their countries. The Optional Protocol obliges States parties to establish an NPM in their country within one year of ratification. Other States parties who are also currently substantially overdue in complying with this obligation are Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chile, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Mongolia, Nauru, Niger, Nigeria and the Philippines.
In that same session, the SPT also adopted one confidential report on its visit to United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which was sent to the National Preventive Mechanism.
The SPT has a mandate to visit States that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, and assist those States in preventing torture and ill-treatment of people deprived of their liberty. The Subcommittee communicates its observations and recommendations to States through confidential reports, which it encourages countries and NPMs to make public.
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.