The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, through its Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPTA), commemorates the symbolic date of June 26, International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
For the past twenty-six years, the commemoration of the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Torture has highlighted the urgent need for our continent and the rest of the world to adopt protection mechanisms for victims, and to put an unequivocal end to all forms of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. This commemoration is of particular importance to the CPTA, which continues to support African states by encouraging them to adopt and ratify international instruments against torture. We would also like to congratulate those states on our continent that are fully committed to implementing these instruments, thus contributing to the eradication of impunity. The CPTA wishes to express its sincere gratitude to all those actors, from civil society and academic institutions, who, through their active involvement in advocacy actions, place their academic expertise at the service of human rights and the preservation of the intrinsic dignity of every human being. We urge them to persevere in their noble efforts.
To date, a total of 54 countries have signed up to the United Nations Convention against Torture, demonstrating their commitment to the protection of fundamental rights. The Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa (CPTA) urges these states to persevere in implementing essential mechanisms and practices, such as training security officers, safeguarding the physical and mental well-being of persons deprived of their liberty, and guaranteeing improved access to prevention and redress mechanisms. Furthermore, it is important to practice zero tolerance towards abusive acts, torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. It is imperative to emphasize that the challenges of the continent, as well as security, political instability and conflict, can contribute to situations of instability conducive to such treatment.
As we mentioned two years ago, the declaration of states of emergency in several countries represented fertile ground for all kinds of deprivation of individual freedoms and excessive use of force by national security officials. We urged States to take the utmost precaution in the face of possible abuses of these provisions. The Robben Island Guidelines state that "public order", a "national emergency"[ Guideline 10] or "superior orders"[ Guideline 11] must not be used as a justification or excuse for acts of torture and other ill-treatment.
We regret to see these contexts repeated today in several countries, under the guise of security threats.
We are concerned by the rise in violence and war in many regions, and by the resulting abuses, crimes and acts of terror. We call on states to put into action² peaceful solutions to conflict resolution, and to take measures to put an end to all excesses committed against the population, in particular vulnerable people, such as people on the move, those suffering from physical or mental disorders, women, minors and LGBTQI+ people. Furthermore, despite initiatives proposing alternatives to detention, we still observe prison overcrowding, deficiencies in the classification system and difficulties in accessing healthcare, and insufficient means committed to effective reintegration.
At the same time, this commemoration gives us an opportunity to report on the progress made as a whole, and to highlight the work of the CPTA and its partners, including civil society, international NGOs and NHRIs.
We welcome the adoption of the Mendez principles and the mobilization of the international community in favor of these new principles, which reinforce the prevention of torture from the very first hours of detention.
The ACHPR has encouraged States to adopt these principles, and has also contributed to the progress made in providing access to rights for people wishing to refer urgent cases of torture to the CPTA, with the introduction of the Abidjan Rules. We are currently in the process of disseminating this new form of urgent procedure. To this end, we have begun training courses for NHRIs, civil society associations, international NGOs and legal practitioners in the 5 regions of the continent.
2020 initiated resolution 472 Prohibiting the use, production, export and trade of tools for torture. Through this resolution, the Commission called on all States to assume their responsibilities with regard to the use of security tools and weapons for torture, and insisted on the responsibility of States in the trade of tools dedicated to this practice. Today, we can see that the fruit of this work has enriched the global reflection launched by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.
Today, while continuing to enrich research on this theme, we are highlighting our 2023 annual theme of "Vulnerable Groups facing Torture", with a particular focus on the many acts of violence, aggression, deprivation of liberty, inhuman or degrading treatment and torture perpetrated against vulnerable groups such as women; indigenous communities and minorities; people living with HIV (PLHIV); the elderly and people with physical or mental disabilities; refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons and migrants; human rights defenders; and finally, people who are victims of enforced disappearance.
The CPTA is firmly committed to combating violence, torture and inhuman treatment of vulnerable people. Their vulnerability depends not only on social perception or administrative status, but also on difficult access to legal, medical and mental health support. In times of war, they are the first victims, and their need for support is even more crucial. In times of deprivation of liberty, their vulnerability is heightened. We call on states to be more attentive to their needs, to put an end to abuses and to guarantee their human rights in dignity.
Twenty years after the adoption of the OPCAT, CPTA calls on African states that have not yet done so to ratify the Optional Protocol and promptly mobilize the resources needed to set up national preventive mechanisms. It urges them to criminalize acts of torture and ill-treatment, and to establish independent and impartial commissions of inquiry to investigate such acts. It is imperative to rigorously prevent torture in all places, including those where freedom is restricted.
For further information, please contact
Secretariat of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
31 Bijilo Annex Lay-out, Kombo North District Western Region. PO Box 673
Banjul, The Gambia Tel: 220 4410505/6
Fax: 220 4410504