CTI’s third Annual Forum inspires new action to prevent torture

Geneva, 16 December 2016 – On Tuesday 13 December, the Convention against Torture Initiative held its third Annual Forum at Château des Bois in the countryside of Geneva.

CTI Third annual forum at Chateau des Bois

More than 70 Friends and partners of CTI gathered on 13 December 2016 for CTI’s third Annual Forum which took place in the countryside outside Geneva at Château des Bois, Satigny. Twenty-seven States were represented as well as partners from 16 NGOs alongside a number of international anti-torture experts.

The Forum provided a platform where positive developments on ratification and implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and ideas on new approaches for the coming years were shared. The event was opened by H.E. Ambassador Sammie Eddico of Ghana, and moderated by Dr. Alice Edwards, Head of the CTI Secretariat. H.E. Ambassador Carsten Staur of Denmark provided an overview of CTI’s 2016 achievements and plans for 2017. See the power point presentation here. In particular, the CTI used the occasion to welcome two new States parties to the Convention: Fiji that ratified in March 2016 and the Central African Republic that ratified in October 2016, as well as three new States parties that joined the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture this year: Cabo Verde, the Central African Republic and Ghana.

The event highlight was a “TEDx-style” talk by Dr. Jennifer Bryson, Director of Operations and Development at the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom (CIRF) in Washington DC, and former interrogator for the US Defence Intelligence Agency, who shared her compelling personal story of how being an interrogator led her to reject torture. She fundamentally rejected the use of torture as a tool of interrogation, arguing that it was ineffective as a means of intelligence gathering. She encouraged instead an approach based on building rapport and emphasized the need for training and supervision arrangements that promoted non-coercive interviewing techniques.

Dr. Asbjorn Rachlew, Superintendent of Norwegian Police, was invited to respond to Dr. Bryson’s presentation from a law enforcement perspective. He noted that for law enforcement personnel, the position was similar referring to the practice of investigative interviewing. Such techniques are based on professional ethical standards that respect the presumption of innocence and other rights of the accused and which have at their heart the search for the truth, rather than reinforcing pre-conceived views of what that truth may be. He noted that the over-emphasis on confessions as the primary or only way to resolve criminal cases increased the risk that officers would resort to torture or other forms of abuse, and in turn had led courts to reject the truthfulness of statements made and to dismiss cases altogether. The talk garnered a spirited discussion and follow-up questions from Forum participants.     

The final session focused on the third cycle of the UPR. Executive Director of Universal Rights Group, Mr. Marc Limon, moderated the discussion. Panelists consisted of H.E. Ambassador Mohamed Auajjar of Morocco, Ms. Manuela Teixeira Pinto, Deputy Permanent Representative of Portugal, Mr. João Lucas Quental Novaes de Almeida, Minister Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Brazil, on behalf of Ambassador Dunlop and Executive Director of Geneva-based UPRInfo, Mr. Roland Chauville.  The panelists were quizzed about their views on the value of the UPR as a tool to encourage States to ratify and better implement human rights treaties, how States had dealt with their reporting obligations, the review itself and subsequent received recommendations, and finally, offered their advice to the CTI on leveraging the UPR to promote further UNCAT ratifications and implementation.

Ambassador Triyono Wibowo of Indonesia closed the event, thanking the CTI Friends for all their efforts over 2016 towards universal ratification and improved implementation, and inviting deeper engagement in the year ahead.

The Forum programme is available here.

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