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Prevention of Torture: UN human rights body suspends Rwanda visit citing obstructions

The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) has suspended a visit to Rwanda due to a series of obstructions imposed by authorities, such as accessing some places of detention, confidentiality of certain interviews and over concerns that some interviewees could face reprisals.


The delegation suspended the visit on day five of their planned seven-day mission because of Rwanda’s lack of cooperation which prevented the SPT from fulfilling its mandate under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). It is only the third time in 10 years that the SPT has suspended a mission.

“We have been barred from completing our work in some places, and grave limitations have been imposed on granting access to certain places of detention,” said Arman Danielyan, head of the SPT delegation. “We have also been unable to carry out private and confidential interviews with some persons deprived of their liberty. Moreover, many of those we have managed to interview have expressed fears of reprisals. We must not place the persons that have cooperated with us in danger,” he added.

The delegation concluded that the visit as a whole had been compromised to such an extent that it had to be suspended as the SPT mandate could not be effectively carried out.

Under the provisions of the OPCAT, the SPT is mandated to visit any of the 84 States parties to the Protocol and can make unannounced visits to any places where people are or might be detained; the visited country must grant the opportunity to the delegation to have private interviews with any persons deprived of their liberty, without witnesses.

The SPT mission to Rwanda had also been due to advise the authorities on the establishment of a national monitoring body, officially known as the National Prevention Mechanism (NPM), which according to the OPCAT should have a similar visiting mandate as that of the SPT and should have already been in place. The delegation also regrets that it was unable to meet with the relevant Parliamentary Committee in order to advise it on the draft NPM Law.

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.

“Now we call on the Government of Rwanda to further its cooperation with us and hope that it will abide by its international obligations in order to enter in a constructive dialogue with the SPT to enable us to resume our visit, including to advise on the establishment of an independent and effective National Preventive Mechanism in the country,” said the head of the delegation.

The SPT delegation comprised the following members: Mr. Arman Danielyan (Head of delegation, Armenia), Ms. Margarete Osterfeld (Germany), Mr. Kosta Mitrovic (Serbia), Ms. Zdenka Perovic (Montenegro) and Ms. Aneta Stanchevska (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia).

Jimirasire

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