General assembly adopts instrument implementing a global system of visits to places of detention

On the 7th November 2002, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly approved the Draft Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture by 104 votes in favour, 8 against and 37 abstentions. It now remains to be formally adopted at the plenary session in December.

The Anti-Torture Protocol aims to prevent torture through the establishment of an international body of experts, as well as national mechanisms, to visit places of detention. These two mechanisms will enable States Parties to improve detention conditions and decide upon appropriate deterrent measures reflecting the particularities and needs of each State.

Although opening centres of detention to the inspection of independent experts has proven to be one of the most effective means to prevent torture, almost no mechanism of this nature exists in the world. At the national level there are some mechanisms competent to visit places of detention, and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture has been exercising this faculty at a regional level over the past 15 years. However, the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture is the first international mechanism with universal scope, enabling regular visits to places of detention all over the world.

Despite the opposition of the USA, China, Cuba, Israel, Syria, Nigeria and Vietnam, the vast majority of States, led by Costa Rica and Switzerland, supported the adoption of the Optional Protocol.

This will be an important tool for combating torture and a key instrument for States to guarantee that survivors of torture do not confront these violations again.

For further information please contact:

Gabriela Echeverria
Legal Advisor (International), REDRESS

tel: +44(0)20 73297322
fax: +44(0)20 7248 5397
email: [email protected]