Towards Effective Implementation
Since its creation, CTI has been deeply involved in supporting States to successfully implement the Convention against Torture and ill-treatment. The benefits of domestic implementation are clear: applying UNCAT underpins fair systems of justice, builds safe and rules-based communities, and reduces allegations of abuses and excesses and the consequent financial, reputational and other pressures working against stable and transparent governance. Through processes of preparation, capacity building, consultation and transparency, public trust in institutions and authorities are enhanced.
In order to prevent and eradicate torture and ill-treatment, CTI works with States to understand the political, economic, legal, cultural and social processes and structures that allow it to occur, and how and why it persists. We also address those situations and populations more likely to be at risk, and help authorities put in place preventive mechanisms, procedures and safeguards.
States should be realistic and practical in setting achievable goals for the implementation of UNCAT. Fulfilment of Convention rights is an ongoing process, and may take years to achieve.
Because UNCAT does not prescribe how its various articles are to be implemented, each State party is free to develop laws, policies, practices and mechanisms that reflect and respond to their own unique national context and character. Preparing a strategy (or action plan) can help to identify and plan the specific short-, mid- and long-term steps proposed to prevent torture and other ill-treatment or punishment.
Different approaches to strategies have been adopted by States. Some States have developed national torture prevention strategies either as a specific strategy or as part of a broader human rights national action plan. Others have subsumed elements relating to torture prevention within national development plans, including in relation to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In federal or other decentralised States, strategies may be developed at a federal level and/or at the sub-national levels. And at a practical level, operational plans of specific departments or services have incorporated torture prevention objectives and targeted actions.
Some of the first steps to be undertaken include:
(1) mapping (legal, institutional and capacity gaps, etc.),
(2) planning for full implementation,
(3) raising awareness and mainstreaming training for national actors in key sectors, and
(4) preparing an Initial Report to the Committee against Torture.
Read more about CTI’s advice on developing national strategies or plans for implementing UNCAT here.
Many States review their existing legislation ahead of ratification, as a part of their preparations for assessing compatibility and identifying any needed legislative reforms that may be required prior or after ratification. Other States undertake this exercise only after they are a State party, as they prioritise areas for implementing the Convention. Still others may be requested to do so by the Committee against Torture after their initial or subsequent reports, either generally or in relation to specific areas.
CTI offers support to States through our anti-torture law guides and tools, technical workshops on anti-torture laws being rolled out in several regions, and one-on-one advice and guidance through our Advice Hub.
Learn more at our anti-torture legislation resource page.
Taking stock of positive practices and challenges
A roadmap for domestic implementation of UNCAT might include the following steps for each responsible government department and/or executive agency:
- A review of and/or adoption of regulations, codes of practice, or policies to guide operational practices and bring about positive behavioural change;
- Institutional reform is also recommended to allow for independent and effective investigations, robust chains of responsibility, or visits by experts who can work with national authorities to reduce the risks of abuse;
- Development of reparations programmes and rehabilitation services for victims of abuse;
- Capacity building and training are critical tools to change cultural barriers and educate judicial and operational officials; and
- Public awareness programmes on the rights enshrined in the Convention
Relevant sectors to review and to form part of implementation bodies, could include:
- Policing and law enforcement
- Children/juvenile justice,
- Migration and asylum
Assessing financial implications and allocating resources
As with all human rights treaties, effective implementation of UNCAT is not without financial implications, such as costs associated with necessary legal and policy reforms, the introduction of safeguards against ill-treatment in detention, awards of compensation to victims, or the training of staff.
However, States which already demonstrate a good level of compliance with international torture prevention standards experience comparatively few costs associated with UNCAT implementation. Other States have shown that the costs associated with implementing UNCAT may be managed in a way which incorporates them into existing commitments on justice sector reform or bears them gradually over time, making full implementation of the Convention possible, even for small States.
It is also worth recognising that a number of tangible and non-tangible benefits are associated with UNCAT membership, such as sustainable development and improved security, thus becoming a more attractive investment and trading partner, which may significantly reduce the overall long-term costs of ratification and implementation.
Building on other international commitments
In recognition that human rights are essential to achieve sustainable development, many States are mainstreaming human rights implementation strategies within national development plans. Torture prevention strategies can support the implementation of sustainable development goals. For example, torture prevention strategies such as those aimed at promoting rule of law and access to justice, reducing all forms of violence, tackling corruption and bribery, and developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions, are also strategies which address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 16.
Likewise, there are many tools available to group UN recommendations, such as those accepted during the Universal Periodic Review process, or other treaty body reviews. These tools are very useful as by streamlining recommendations and grouping torture-related recommendations together, they show a more realistic picture of where changes may be required. In many cases, the number of “real” recommendations are significantly reduced.
For more information or support for UNCAT implementation, please reach out to our Advice Hub.