Middle East and North Africa
A diverse region of varying legal, institutional, historical and political structures, CTI has been working with governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to strengthen national institutions, laws and mechanisms to improve the administration of justice, police and law enforcement practices and overall systems of governance. Enjoying near complete regional ratification of UNCAT, CTI’s focus is on assisting MENA States to fully implement the Convention by tackling specific areas and providing capacity building and technical assistance as requested.
Additionally, a growing number of MENA States have ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT), and are leading the way in instituting and putting into practice their National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) to help prevent torture by visiting places where people are deprived of their liberty and making recommendations for improvements.
The Kingdom of Morocco, CTI’s Core State located in North Africa, plays a central role in convening regional dialogues on themes of mutual interest to countries in the region, to discuss common challenges and ways forward, as well as sharing its own experiences of implementing both the Convention and the Optional Protocol.
Regional ratification across Middle East and North Africa
States parties [must] engage with strong political will in long-term efforts for reform. These efforts could be: adopting an effective system capable of preventing torture, aligning national legislation with relevant international standards, supporting ongoing training programs, capacity-building and human rights education, as well as developing techniques for conducting investigations and scientific capacities and skills to enhance cooperation and technical assistance.H.E. Mustapha Al Ramid, Minister of State in charge of Human Rights and Relations with Parliament of Morocco, speaking at a high-level CTI side-event held during the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in February 2020 in Geneva
Universal Ratification In Sight For Mena
Almost all countries in MENA are party to UNCAT, with 19 States parties and only two States remaining to ratify. CTI congratulates the latest States to ratify: the Sultanate of Oman and the State of Palestine. As the final States consider becoming party to UNCAT, CTI has been pleased to provide information on Convention obligations and the ratification process, has welcomed participation of officials in a number of regional events and country seminars, and is ready to assist with further advice.
CTI considers the MENA region as comprising the following 21 countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, State of Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
The decision of my country’s Government to accede to the Convention against Torture […] reflects its commitment to promote and protect human rights by harmonizing its national legislations to international laws and affirming its active role on the international scene.H.E. Abdullah Al Riyami, Deputy Permanent Representative and Chargé d’affaires a.i. of Oman to the UN in Geneva, on Oman’s accession to UNCAT in June 2020.
Reforming Police Practices And Justice Systems
As in other regions, incidents and patterns of police over-reach and difficult conditions in places of detention are evident and need addressing. States in the region have varying security and political challenges and, in some cases, the persistence of conflict and instability is an obstacle to the full promotion and protection of human rights. That said, a growing number of countries in MENA are developing strategies and progressing towards the effective application of international standards.
Having identified law enforcement, and particularly policing, as an area where international cooperation can foster tangible improvements, CTI convened a regional workshop in Marrakesh, Morocco, on “Implementing the Convention against Torture: sharing best practice and experience in preventing torture in police custody in the Middle East and North Africa”. The event took place in December 2015, and explored practical solutions to a number of challenges, such as effective ways to counter the perseverance of a “confessions-based culture” amongst police and the judiciary. Participants pointed to investment in training, cultivating a culture that respects the rule of law and human rights, and independent monitoring of places of arrest and detention, as particularly instructive.
To continue supporting the efforts of reforming and training law enforcement agencies in the region and beyond, CTI Core States of Indonesia and Morocco hosted a second regional seminar, in October 2017 in Fes, Morocco, to strengthen international cooperation and the sharing of experiences on the administration of justice and law enforcement among MENA countries and others in Asia and Africa who face similar challenges. This seminar explored ways to improve the administration of justice and law enforcement practices and to discuss domestic instructions, procedures and policies, including techniques of “rapport-building investigative interviewing” and other modern investigation methods to reduce reliance on confessions, and improve the collection and storage of evidence.
Applying Regional Standards and Adopting Anti-Torture Legislation
Anti-torture legislation in the MENA region finds its roots not only in universal texts such as the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and UNCAT, but also in regional instruments to which many MENA States are party, including the Arab Charter on Human Rights, the Human Rights Declaration for the Member States of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, as well as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, which all contain prohibitions of torture and ill-treatment.
MENA States participating in CTI activities have shared their efforts in building effective anti-torture legal and institutional frameworks. Some countries find difficulties in reconciling their civil and religious legal systems, which is why CTI continues to encourage inter-State cooperation among MENA States with similar legal traditions and systems, so as to build and learn from each other’s reform processes and solutions.
Several MENA State officials took part in a CTI technical workshop organised in October 2018 in Dakar, Senegal, on the legislative drafting of anti-torture laws. This seminar gathered legislative drafters and lawmakers from francophone countries to explore, in a constructive setting and among peers, good practices in drafting or amending legislation against torture and ill-treatment in line with the standards set by UNCAT.
CTI is available to advise States in the MENA region on the compatibility of their legislation with UNCAT, and can refer them confidentially to specific experts familiar with the cultural and legal specificities of the region.