UN experts welcome Maltese progress in torture prevention

‘Significant work needs to be done to make national monitoring bodies fully independent and effective in line with international standards’ – UN subcommittee on prevention of torture

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Matthew Vella
9 October 2014, 4:31pm
During its visit, the SPT delegation held capacity-building exercises with the two bodies designated by the Maltese 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.
During its visit, the SPT delegation held capacity-building exercises with the two bodies designated by the Maltese 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.
Malta has made progress in preventing the torture and ill-treatment of people deprived of their liberty by setting up two national monitoring bodies in line with its treaty obligations, but more needs to be done, UN rights experts said at the end of their first official visit to the country.

“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 (OPCAT) and designating two monitoring bodies,” said Mari Amos, who headed the delegation from the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT).

“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 OPCAT and other relevant international standards,” she added.

The four-member SPT delegation visited Malta from 6 to 9 October to provide advice and technical assistance to the monitoring bodies, known as National Preventive Mechanisms (NPSMs), and to the State party.  

“A key way to increase the independence and effectiveness of monitoring is to raise awareness of what OPCAT requires regarding the role and functioning of NPMs. Such awareness-raising should take place among different sectors, including the authorities and the members of these bodies themselves,” Amos said.

During its visit, the SPT delegation held capacity-building exercises with the two bodies designated by the Maltese 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. The Subcommittee will submit separate confidential reports containing its observations and recommendations to the Government of the Republic of Malta and to the Maltese NPMs.

“The SPT remains available to provide the Republic of Malta and the National Preventive Mechanisms with all relevant support and advice,” Amos stressed.

During its visit, the delegation also met government officials, the Ombudsman, the Police Board, the Commissioner for Mental Health and Older Persons, the Commissioner for Children, representatives of relevant parliamentary standing committees, non-governmental organisations and United Nations representatives.

The SPT delegation to the Republic of Malta: Mari Amos, Hans-jorg Viktor Bannwart, June Lopez Paguadan and Aneta Stanchevska.

The SPT’s role is to prevent and eliminate torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment of detainees. It has a mandate to visit all States that are parties to OPCAT and to make recommendations to the authorities to provide for effective safeguards against torture and ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty.

The Optional Protocol on the Prevention of Torture has to date been ratified by 73 countries. At the end of a country mission, the SPT communicates its recommendations and observations to the State by means of a confidential report, and if necessary to NPMs. States parties are encouraged to request that the SPT makes these reports public.

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Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.