17th August 2016: A four-year academic research project has found that global torture prevention measures, such as the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, are effective in reducing torture and ill-treatment. The project, commissioned by SRT grantee the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), is the first systematic analysis of the effectiveness of torture prevention.
The project was carried out independently under the lead of Dr Richard Carver (Oxford Brookes University, UK) and Dr Lisa Handley (USA). Assisted by a team of researchers, Carver and Handley carried out primary research in 16 countries, looking at torture and prevention mechanisms over a 30-year period (1984-2014). Data was analysed using a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques. The findings have been set out in a book, Does Torture Prevention Work? published by Liverpool University Press.
Since APT was founded in 1977 national, regional and international mechanisms have been established for monitoring of places of detention, and more than 80 States have joined the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. However it was unclear whether these monitoring bodies were effective, or what other measures contribute to reducing the risk of torture and ill-treatment.
The study shows that prevention measures do work, although some are much more effective than others. Most important are the safeguards that should be applied in the first hours and days after a person is taken into custody. Notification of family and access to an independent lawyer and doctor has a significant impact in reducing torture. The consistent investigation of torture, effective prosecution of torturers and the creation of independent monitoring bodies are also vital in reducing torture.
APT said, “The results of the research will be of great relevance for governments, National Preventive Mechanisms, civil society organisations, National Human Rights Institutions, the UN and regional torture prevention bodies, and will help inform more effective strategies and polices against torture.”
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