Torture prevention in times of COVID-19 and new developments towards eradicating torture: CTI 2021 Annual Forum report is out!

Today, the Convention against Torture Initiative (CTI) releases the report of the Annual Forum 2020-2021 on ‘Promising new developments and trends towards eradicating torture: Long-term Lessons from Covid-19 Responses’ held online on 24 June 2021 for CTI’s Group of Friends and other invitees. The report contains a summary of the discussions on CTI’s work towards universal ratification and improved implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) as well as recent international legal and practical developments in the  fight against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, particularly on challenges and promising practices observed in implementing UNCAT during the Covid-19 pandemic. It also includes positive practices identified during the Forum that could be carried over and retained in post-Covid-19 times and additional resources shared by participants on recent international legal and practical developments.

The report provides an overview of discussions focused on shortcomings and promising practices in policing during the pandemic and in the management and monitoring of places of detention from different geographical and thematic angles. The report highlights that the pandemic has offered States an opportunity and an incentive to rethink in particular how law enforcement agencies, prisons and criminal justice systems work and what can be done to improve compliance with human rights obligations and standards, including to give effect to the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The report also captures some of the challenges arising from the use of force by the police and other law enforcement and security forces in the enforcement of initial Covid-19 lockdown measures, as well as conditions of detention and the need to decongest places of deprivation of liberty, including prisons in order to reduce the risk of transmission and to protect the health of inmates and staff alike.

Conscious of the unprecedented challenges caused by the pandemic, some of the key takeaways from the Forum highlighted in the report include globally increased attention to police violence which has opened space for global discussions on policing; improved and intensified monitoring of reporting of human rights situations during the pandemic should be maintained in post-COVID-19 times;  putting in place non-custodial alternatives and other decongestion measures have allowed States, in a very short time, to reduce the number of detainees and overcrowding in prisons and other places of deprivation of liberty, a key factor in the prevention of torture and other ill-treatment.

Discussions at the Annual Forum also underlined that CTI’s State-led, equality-based initiative, which applies a “no name, no shame” approach in all activities, has given space for further countries to ratify and implement UNCAT. Consequently, UNCAT’s ratification rate is currently tracking higher than almost all other core human rights treaties and UNCAT was the most ratified UN Core Human Rights treaty in 2020. On the issue of treaty reporting obligations – often touted as a reason for States’ reluctance to ratify UNCAT – discussions highlighted the importance of putting in place systems allowing States to overcome financial and human resources-related constraints and meet their reporting obligations, such as the simplified reporting procedure.

The Annual Forum report is available here.

The next CTI Annual Forum for our Group of Friends will take place in 2022. Our Group of Friends, which serves as a platform for the exchange of knowledge, experience and ideas on how to overcome obstacles to ratification and implementation of the UNCAT, is open to all UN Member States.

About the Convention against Torture Initiative

CTI is an intergovernmental 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. Through constructive dialogue and international cooperation between States, CTI offers technical and capacity-building support to governments. To connect with CTI’s Advice Hub, please send an e-mail to: advicehub@cti2024.org.

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