Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture

Implementation Manual

Revised Edition

On 16 November the Committee against Torture announced the adoption of its Third General Comment, on implementation of article 14 of the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT). Article 14 provides that States Parties should ensure a victim of torture with an effective remedy and that there is an enforceable right to compensation and rehabilitation. The Committee against torture has in this third general comment explained and clarified what this particular article means; that All States parties are required to "ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible."

The new manual for the implementation of the Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture aims to support and strengthen the work of international, regional and national actors involved in its ratification. It provides concrete examples of good practice drawn from around the world.

This manual is about one of the seminal developments in human rights protection in recent times: the process by which the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) has come into existence and is being implemented. The first decade of the 21st century heralded a new era in the prevention of torture: the OPCAT was adopted by the General Assembly in December 2002 and it entered into force in June 2006. Since then, two new actors have emerged in the field of torture prevention: the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the SPT), the treaty body established by the OPCAT, and the national preventive mechanisms (NPMs), which each State Party to the OPCAT is obliged to maintain, designate or establish to carry out preventive work at the national level. A third element, not yet operational, is provided for in the OPCAT, is the Special Fund, still remains to be formally created to help finance implementation of the SPT's recommendations and education and training for NPMs.

The SPT, the first in a new generation of UN treaty bodies with a focus on operations in the field, began work in February 2007 with ten members. In late 2010, the SPT's membership will increase to 25, making it the largest human rights treaty body of the UN. Since its inception, the SPT has developed a programme of preventive visits and extended its relations with other actors, particularly with the NPMs.

NPMs, arguably the most innovative feature of the OPCAT, are being created in a variety of ways across the fifty-seven current States Parties. To date, more than a half have established or maintained bodies designated as NPMs. Some States have identified existing bodies to take on the preventive NPM mandate; however, in some cases there has been little or no organisational adaptation and little change in approach, a policy which is questioned in the manual. Other States have created new bodies to take on this new role. NPMs have emerged at a different pace across the States Parties. Some NPMs have been operational for more than two years, while others have not yet started work. Other States Parties are still in the process of setting up an NPM (or NPMs) ...

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