CTI participates in OSCE conference on roles and responsibilities of police and law enforcement in torture prevention

On 2 June 2021, CTI’s Senior Adviser (interim) Stephanie Selg, guided the discussions as the Master of Ceremonies at an International Conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The event titled Torture Prevention in the Criminal Justice System: The Roles and Responsibilities of Police and Other Law Enforcement was organised by the Permanent Representation of Denmark and the Permanent Representation of Switzerland to the OSCE, with the support of the OSCE 2021 Swedish Chairpersonship and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

The conference provided an opportunity for the 57 OSCE participating States as well as representatives from international and national institutions, law enforcement officials, civil society organizations and independent experts from across the region to engage in a constructive and forward-looking discussion on the systemic challenges to the fight against torture in the criminal justice system.

During the high-level opening, Ambassador Rene Rosager Dinesen, Permanent Representative of Denmark to the OSCE and Ambassador Tobias Lorentzson, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Swedish Delegation to the OSCE and Representative of the OSCE 2021 Swedish Chairpersonship underlined that the prohibition of torture is absolute and is firmly enshrined in international human rights law and other documents such as the landmark OSCE Ministerial Council decision on the Prevention and Eradication of Torture and other ill-treatment from December 2020 or the recent UN Human Rights Council resolution on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment: the roles and responsibilities of police and other law enforcement officials.

The prohibition of torture is absolute, and the use of torture has been condemned by the international community numerous times. Respect for human dignity and human rights are also codified in the core of the OSCE’s founding documents. But all of those words and documents mean nothing without action. We must increase our efforts in order to make torture a matter of the past.

H.E. Rene Rosager Dinesen, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Denmark to the OSCE

The keynote speech by Oslo Police Superintendent Asbjørn Rachlew and other interventions throughout the three-hour event made clear that police and other law enforcement officials play an important role in serving the community and protecting all persons against acts of torture and other ill-treatment. Also, public confidence in police and other law enforcement officials is paramount to their ability to perform their functions effectively, and depends on the police culture and their respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and human dignity of all persons.

Stephanie Selg highlighted CTI’s work in supporting States through confidential dialogue and experience-sharing in their torture prevention efforts, including in areas such as the implementation of safeguards in police custody and investigative interviewing techniques. Participants showed much interest in the relevant CTI practical Tools that were shared during the event, namely the CTI/UNCAT Implementation Tool 1/2017: State strategies to prevent and respond to torture and other ill-treatment or punishment and the CTI Training Tool 1/2017: Investigative Interviewing for Criminal Cases.

The over 150 participants, including the 42 co-sponsoring OSCE participating States, discussed issues such as confession-based justice systems that may incentivize police and other law enforcement officials to resort to the use of torture or other ill-treatment as well as other incentives for torture in criminal justice systems as highlighted in a recent Baseline Study and Practical Guidance on Eliminating Incentives for torture in the OSCE Region published by ODIHR and Fair Trials. Further discussions touched on the challenges that police and investigators face in implementing non-coercive interviewing techniques, as well as promising practices in reducing incentives for law enforcement officials to use torture and other ill-treatment, in particular during police custody and pre-trial investigation phase.

About the Convention against Torture Initiative:

CTI is an inter-governmental initiative, promoting the universal ratification and implementation of the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT). The Initiative is being spearheaded by the Governments of Chile, Denmark, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia and Morocco, and is supported by a full-time Secretariat based in Geneva. CTI fosters constructive dialogue and international cooperation between States, and offers technical and capacity building support to governments. We are encouraged by a Group of Friends, which is open to all UN Member States and serves as a platform for the exchange of knowledge, experience and ideas on how to overcome obstacles to ratification and implementation of the UNCAT.

CTI’s Advice Hub can be contacted confidentially for technical advice at advicehub@cti2024.org.

For any other questions, feel free to contact the CTI Secretariat at info@cti2024.org.

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