"National human rights institutions cannot play a decisive role in combating torture unless they become a real moral and suggesting power"
The participants of the sixth Arab-European Human Rights Dialogue of national human rights institutions on "Torture and the rule of law", held in Berlin from 11 to 13 May 2011, called for adopting a firm policy on human rights violations.
They, unanimously, considered that torture is one of the most serious violations of human rights and a flagrant violation of the rule of law, human dignity and the right to physical integrity. They indicated that it is prevalent in a number of countries, including the developed countries, particularly in the context of their war against terrorism, despite the fact that the international community has adopted a number of conventions to fight against this phenomenon and limit it physical and psychological impacts.
They urged States to ratify the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its optional protocol. They called for the criminalization of torture in national laws and constitutions and provision of basic resources to ensure fair trials. They asserted that torture is still practiced due to the absence of effective policies to end impunity.
The participants identified several points that prevent real curbing of the phenomenon of torture: emergency laws imposed in some Arab countries, non-criminalization of torture in some laws or absence of an integrated definition of torture, combating terrorism laws, which are often bound by security rather than human rights, do not take into account a human rights based approach nor respect fundamental freedoms, internal armed conflicts, weakness of regional control mechanisms, etc.
Speaking on this occasion, Secretary General of the (Moroccan) National Human Rights Council Mr. Mohamed Essabbar said that that States should strengthen their treaty practices, ratify international human rights conventions related to torture and respect the minimum best rules in treating prisoners.
Chairing the first panel of this sixth Dialogue, Mr. Essabbar indicated that national human rights institutions cannot play a decisive role in combating torture unless they become a real moral and suggesting power. He highlighted the recent developments in Morocco, particularly the creation of the National Human Rights Council which inherits the Advisory Council on Human Rights but with a broader mandate and reinforced independence and pluralism.
He added that the Arab-European Human Rights Dialogue should take new dimensions especially in the context of the recent events: protesters claiming political, economic and human rights in the Arab world and far right parties gaining more ground in several European countries.
For his part, Mr. Mostapha Raissouni, Advisor to CNDH President, addressed the issue of torture in national laws and practices. He shed light on the reform of the Code of Penal Procedure and on the experience of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission and its recommendation to combat torture and stop impunity. He indicated that the Council published a report on the situation in Moroccan prisons in 2004. The new challenges are common and do not exclude advanced countries, he said, concluding that national human rights institutions and organizations working in this field are key players in combating torture.
In a panel held to discuss the latest developments in the Arab world, the participants reiterated that national institutions can play a central role in combating violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, which may be perpetuated during demonstrations. They recalled the joint oral statement made by several Arab institutions on these events. According to this statement, these institutions called on States to respect the right to demonstrate peacefully and the right of peaceful assembly.
The participants of this panel said that the Dialogue can add in its agenda the issue of strengthening the capacities of national human rights institutions in some countries so that they can be in full conformity with the Paris Principles governing such institutions.
Mr. Khalid Ramli, CNDH officer working at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, presented the report of the AEHRD Working Group on the Rights of Migrant Workers. This report highlights the challenges and difficulties migrants face and the need to take preventive measures against the exploitation of this group, especially children and women, to provide financial resources to prevent human trafficking, to regulate the recruitment operations of migrant workers, to organize awareness campaigns about human trafficking for potential victims, government departments, NGOs working in the field and the media.
AEHRD Quartet, composed, in alphabetical order, of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, the German Institute for Human Rights, the Jordanian National Centre for Human Rights and the Moroccan National Human Rights Council held a press conference at the end of the sixth dialogue.
During this conference, Mr. Mohammed Essabbar commended the establishment of this Dialogue, saying that it is a unique experience in networking, communication and experience sharing. It contributes to reducing the gap between European and Arab countries, he added. He considered that the recommendations of this dialogue are moral obligations for member institutions and called on these institutions to adopt their works to the aspirations of citizens.
Responding to a question raised by a journalist, Mr. Essabbar said that the (Moroccan) National Human Rights Council is ready to share its experience in the field of transitional justice with other Arab countries, indicating that the Council already took the initiative and sent a delegation to Tunisia to share the Moroccan experience in the field.
The participants of the sixth Arab-European Human Rights Dialogue on "Torture and the rule of law" adopted a final declaration called Berlin Declaration on Torture and Rule of Law. The Moroccan human rights council participated in drafting this declaration, which includes the following recommendations:
In relation to the General Policies and National Human Rights Institutions
All States should officially condemn torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment and adopt an official zero-tolerance policy with a view to end impunity for serious human rights violations as well as to actively promote a deeply embedded societal culture of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including by supporting and undertaking public awareness campaigns and human rights education of all relevant actors and at all levels;
All States should secure the establishment and maintenance of fully independent, adequately funded and well functioning NHRIs in full compliance with the UN Paris Principles empowered and capacitated to effectively contribute to the prevention of and protection from torture including by facilitating necessary legal and societal reform in cooperation with all relevant international and national actors, hereunder human rights defenders, civil society organisation and the media;
National Human Rights Institutions should endeavour to play a decisive role in combating torture and commit themselves to focus on the protection from and prevention of torture and the respect for the rule of law;
The Arab-European Human Rights Dialogue Quartet - composed in alphabetical order of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, the German Institute for Human Rights, the Jordanian National Centre for Human Rights and the Moroccan National Human Rights Council – is delegated the task of further examining and seeking funds to support activities aimed at (i) encouraging and assisting the establishment of NHRIs in countries that have not yet done so, (ii) to generally strengthening existing NHRIs on the basis of adequate analysis of the gaps in the mandates, funding and functioning of NHRIs, (iii) specifically strengthening NHRIs’ work in preventing torture and building democratic institutions, including in countries of transition;
In relation to International Human Rights Obligations
All States should sign and ratify, without reservations, as well as implement and enforce relevant international human rights instruments with specific reference to torture, including the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) and its Optional Protocol (OCPAT), the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances (CED), the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD) as well as relevant regional instruments such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), the Arab Charter on Human Rights (ACHR) or the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR);
All States should accede to the individual complaints mechanisms available at the international level, including the jurisdiction of the Committees established under the CAT, ICCPR, CRPD, the Convention on the rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), as well as the Courts established under the under the ACHPR and ECHR; additionally all states are encouraged to ratify new individual complaint mechanism such as the one for the ICESCR.
All States should fully cooperate with international human rights mechanisms, including the UN Treaty Bodies (UN Committee Against Torture, UN Sub-committee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT)), the Human Rights Council (Universal Periodic Review and Special Procedures), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as well as regional actors such as the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture, just as States are invited to accede to the Second Optional Protocol to the European Convention against Torture, which is open also to non-European states;
In relation to National legislation, Institutions and National Action Plans
All States should ensure full coherence between international obligations and national legislation and practice, including by incorporating international obligations into the constitutions and national laws and ensure that torture is an offence punishable under national law in accordance with the CAT, subject to extradition and universal jurisdiction and not subject to statutory limitation;
All States should establish and maintain effective and independent, national preventive mechanisms in accordance with international standards, including one or more independent, national preventive mechanism according to standards of the OPCAT, and support its activities by sufficient funding and by allowing unannounced visits to all places of detention with access to all detainees;
All States should develop and implement in accordance with the 1993 Vienna Declaration national action plans against torture and secure sufficient funding toput an end to impunity, including to follow-up on recommendations from international institutions, where relevant with international support, and focus on human rights education for all relevant actors, including clear instructions to officials that acts of torture are a crime and that an order to perform acts of torture is illegal and must be disobeyed;
In relation to the Rule of Law and Individual Remedies
All States should institute necessary legal and institutional reforms of relevant institutions and sectors, including the military, security forces, police, prisons, psychiatric institutions, judiciary etc. and in particular, where relevant, demilitarise prisons and other institutions by putting them under the jurisdiction of ministries of justice or other civilian authority to put an end to impunity and secure that evidence extracted by means of torture is never relied on in legal proceedings;
All States should secure full legal protection of all individuals and, at the outset of detention, prompt information of rights, effective access without intimidation to a person of one’s confidence, to a lawyer and to a independent medical doctor as well as equal access to judicial protection and other relevant individual remedies, including restitution, fair and adequate financial compensation and appropriate medical care and not least rehabilitation;
All States should conduct effective, independent, prompt, transparent and impartial investigations into all allegations of torture with a view to bringing perpetrators to justice and to end impunity and secure public accountability of and public confidence in the authorities’ adherence to the rule of law.Print this page Send this page