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New UN body reviews treatment of prisoners in Maldives

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Officials of the newly established UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) conducted a review of the treatment of prisoners in Maldives in December 2007. The purpose of the one-week visit was to encourage the government to establish the necessary mechanisms and systems to prevent all forms of torture in domestic places of detention.
(Bangkok) The UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) has recently conducted a review of the treatment of detainees in Maldives and presented its confidential preliminary observations to the authorities to encourage them to set up proper mechanisms to prevent torture in local prisons.

SPT conducted private interviews with “persons deprived of liberty” in 12 police establishments, four prisons (two of which under construction), two facilities for juveniles, two drug rehabilitation centres and one establishment under the National Security Services of the Maldives.

Maldives acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) in 2006. The purpose of the subcommittee’s visit from 10 to 17 December was to help the government establish necessary and effective mechanisms and systems to prevent all forms of torture in domestic places of detention. It also aimed to improve the conditions of detention of all persons deprived of their liberty.

The delegation held meetings with government officials, including the Minister of Home Affairs , Attorney General, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Commissioner of Legal Reforms, Director General of the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (Ministry of Home Affairs), Commissioner of Police, and Director General of Health Services (Ministry of health).

They also held discussions with the President of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives. The institution has been appointed as the National Preventive Mechanism under the OPCAT responsible for the development of the mechanism.

The SPT, which has the mandate to visit all the States Parties and make recommendations to the authorities to establish effective measures against ill-treatment, is complemented at the national level by national preventive mechanisms. States Parties must create the mechanisms one year after the OPCAT’s entry in force.

The SPT is the new body of the UN to prevent torture and the mission to Maldives was its second trip. The country was chosen by lot from among 34 OPCAT signatories to be visited. SPT has a mandate to work with governments, law enforcement agencies, penal institutions, human rights commissions and civil society to strengthen national torture prevention safeguards, practices and mechanisms.

The SPT has two guiding principles: cooperation and confidentiality, which is the main thrust of the OPCAT. Its preventive approach aims at protecting people deprived of their liberty rather than condemning States. The SPT therefore communicates their recommendations and observations confidentially to the State Party.