Aims and objectives
Since 2009 the HRIC has worked in partnership with the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) on a number of projects designed to build knowledge and thinking around issues of pre-trial detention and torture. This body of work has sought to highlight the link between the excessive and misuse of pre-trial detention and torture and other ill-treatment such as poor conditions of detention.
It is widely acknowledged that it is during the investigatory stage of detention under the criminal justice system that persons are most at risk of being tortured. It is during this stage of detention when ‘incentives’ to torture are most prevalent e.g. to obtain confessions or information. In addition the practice of torture during pre-trial detention is facilitated by a range of systemic problems, such as criminal justice systems centred on confessions; corruption; lack of access to legal assistance; poorly trained and paid law enforcement officials who do not have access to modern criminal investigation tools; and the popularization of a “tough on crime” approach to criminal justice. Furthermore, monitoring bodies and experts often report that conditions of detention for those being held in pre-trial detention are worse than for convicted prisoners.
To raise awareness and better understand the impact of the excessive and misuse of pre-trial detention the HRIC and OSJI have worked together to encourage the development and implementation of standards and safeguards aimed at reducing pre-trial detention and improving safeguards and conditions for pre-trial detainees worldwide. This partnership has included a range of activities such as:
• Joint authorship of a report highlighting the link between pre-trial detention and torture;
• Joint organisation of seminars with the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) on pre-trial detention and torture leading to the adoption of a substantive statement on pre-trial detention as part of the SPT’s eighth annual report (2015);
• Joint organisation of stakeholder meetings on criminal justice reform including a side event at the UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Doha in April 2015;
• Joint development of a policy paper setting out ‘10 steps’ to help guide implementation of international and regional standards relating to criminal justice;
• Expert inputs by the HRIC on the development and implementation of regional standards on pre-trial detention, in particular the African Commission’s Luanda guidelines.
The HRIC and OSJI continue to work in collaboration with the UN SPT, the Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in African, as well as other international and regional experts and organisations to assist efforts to improve the implementation of safeguards for persons in pre-trial detention.