9 October 2014 The Government of Malta has made strides towards preventing the torture and ill-treatment of people in detention, a group of independent United Nations rights experts confirmed today, but added that more needed to be done for the island nation to comply with its international obligations.
“We acknowledge the first step the Maltese authorities have taken towards preventing torture and ill-treatment by ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and designating two monitoring bodies,” said Mari Amos, who headed the delegation from the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture.
“But through our meetings with different stakeholders, we have seen that significant work needs to be done to make these bodies fully independent and effective in line with the Optional Protocol and other relevant international standards,” she added.
The Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture was established in 2002 and has a mandate to visit all places where persons may be deprived of their liberty, including police stations, prisons (military and civilian), detention centres, and mental health and social care institutions while ensuring that States are in compliance with their obligations as delineated under Optional Protocol.
Appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, the group of independent experts regularly examines and reports on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. Ms. Amos’ delegation – which included Hans-jorg Viktor Bannwart, June Lopez Paguadan and Aneta Stanchevska – visited Malta from 6 to 9 October to provide advice and technical assistance to the local authorities on the management of their National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) – the national monitoring bodies established by the Optional Protocol.
During its visit, the SPT delegation held capacity-building exercises with the two bodies designated by the Government as NPMs – the Board of Visitors of the Prisons and the Board of Visitors for Detained Persons – and conducted a number of joint visits to places of detention.
“A key way to increase the independence and effectiveness of monitoring is to raise awareness of what [the Optional Protocol] requires regarding the role and functioning of NPMs,” Ms. Amos continued. “Such awareness-raising should take place among different sectors, including the authorities and the members of these bodies themselves.”
As required by its mandate, the SPT will communicate its recommendations and observations to the Maltese authorities in a confidential report.
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