Canadian Red Cross Detention & Prohibition of Torture Conference

Dalhousie University in Halifax is set as the scene for this year’s illustrious 14th Annual International Humanitarian Law Conference on 5 October. Co-organized by the Canadian Red Cross and the John E. Read International Law Society at the Schulich School of Law, the event is titled Detention and the Prohibitions against Torture, Cruel, and Unusual Punishment.

Canadian Red CrossAccording to the Canadian Red Cross: “The conference will explore the protections and rules that aim to reduce the occurrence of torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment during armed conflict under both international and national law. Our speakers will provide an introduction to the various legal regimes addressing torture and related humanitarian issues such as detention and internment. Panelists will provide insight into their personal and professional experiences working with both government and NGOs and discuss the challenges that remain in regards to both compliance with, and adequacy of, the current legal regime.”

Interested readers can register for the event by clicking on the Canadian Red Cross symbol above.

Readers can also watch a short ICRC video of the organization’s esteemed work under Electronic OPCAT (in English and French) and read selected ICRC materials under Other Resources.

Posted by mp in Absolute prohibition of torture, Places of detention

ATIP OPCAT Request – Time’s Up!

The time is officially up for Justice Canada! Regrettably, the Canada OPCAT Project has yet to obtain a response from the Department of Justice concerning an OPCAT-related request under the Access to Information Act, known as a so-called ATIP request.   

On 5 June 2018 the Canada OPCAT Project made the ATIP request to obtain a copy of a Justice Canada legal analysis of Canada’s potential accession to the OPCAT. The document was referred to in Department of Justice correspondence also obtained through an ATIP request.

ATIP RequestSeveral weeks later on 28 June 2018 the Department of Justice responded to this initial ATIP request, stating the following:

“Pursuant to paragraph 9(1)(b) of the Access to Information Act, I hereby notify you that an additional 60 days are required to comply with your request because consultations that cannot be reasonably completed within the original time limit are necessary. It may be possible, however, to reply sooner should we complete the processing of your request prior to that time.”   

As this request for information relates to Canada’s publicly stated intention to ratify a key UN human rights instrument (hardly a sensitive issue), this failure to respond within the stipulated time-frame comes as even more surprising.

Nonetheless, with the annual holiday season soon coming to an end, it is very much hoped that a response will be elicited from Justice Canada and that its OPCAT legal analysis will be made available to the project.

Although the Canada OPCAT Project has yet to see a copy of the legal analysis, it is reported to highlight, among other issues, concerns about gaps in the coverage of places of detention by existing independent monitoring bodies. Police and immigration detention facilities are said to be particularly problematic in this respect. Until the report is made available, however, this information cannot be confirmed.

Posted by mp in OPCAT, Ratification

Canada/Ireland – Time To Ratify OPCAT

As the discussion continues on if and when Canada will ratify the OPCAT, attention falls on the same OPCAT process in Ireland.

On 2 October 2007 Ireland signed the OPCAT. More than a decade later, however, the country has yet to ratify the instrument. The highly-respected NGO, Irish Penal Reform Trust, has produced the following animation, arguing why the country should move forward to ratify this important anti-torture instrument.

Canadian readers may find parallels with their own country, even though Canada has not yet signed the OPCAT. You can make your own mind up!

Posted by mp in OPCAT, Ratification

Canada UNCAT Shadow-Reports Due Soon… Don’t Leave It Too Late!

Canada’s track-record to prevent acts of torture and other ill-treatment is set to come under international scrutiny once again in just over two months’ time. The UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT) is due to meet for its 65th session in Geneva, Switzerland from 12 November to 7 December 2018, during which it will examine Canada’s seventh periodic report under the UN Convention.

UNCAT shadow-reportsCivil society actors who are intent on submitting alternative- or shadow-reports to the UN Committee of experts should act sooner rather than later!

Although no specific date is as yet known for the Geneva review, Canadian CSOs and NHRIs should submit information in an electronic format no later than 15 October 2018.

According to OHCHR’s website, to date no Canadian (or other) CSOs or NHRIs have yet submitted information on Canada (unlike for several of the other countries which will be examined during this same session).

The procedure for doing so can be found as follows in English. If afterwards you still remain unsure as to how all this works, please do contact us. We would be very happy to assist you.

If your organization plans to submit a shadow-report, please do not forget to mention Canada’s stated intention to ratify the OPCAT … and its lack of progress to do so. Please contact us for any advice in this connection. Alternatively, read the following section of this website for more information.

General information about the UN Committee against Torture can be found as follows in French and English. OHCHR has also produced this short video animation about the UN Committee.

Posted by mp in UNCAT

‘Football Yes – Torture No’ Campaign Posters

The Canada OPCAT Project has recently added a new section to the website titled Stop Torture Campaign Images. The section aims to bring together in one place a collection of hard-hitting and eye-catching campaign images aimed at preventing torture. While certain images will have a specific OPCAT focus, others will be more generic in scope.

The Amnesty International Germany poster below from 1978 is an illustrative case in point. In a World Cup football year these vintage campaign posters from the late 1970s may be of particular interest. The very fact that FIFA went ahead with the tournament in Argentina at a time when it was widely known that thousands of people were being made to disappear as well as being imprisoned and tortured, beggars belief from today’s perspective.

Campaign poster

If you have any suggestions for images we should include in this website section, please contact us.

Posted by mp

OHCHR Video on the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has published a series of short, humorous videos about the work of the UN treaty bodies. These include the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, UN Committee against Torture and several others. They are all well worth a watch.

If you liked this short clip, explore OHCHR’s other treaty body animations.

Posted by mp in OPCAT, Torture prevention

Guidance Document on the Nelson Mandela Rules Now Published!

This past week Penal Reform International and the Organization’s for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights published their Guidance Document on the Nelson Mandela Rules. The document offers invaluable advice on the implementation of the revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which were adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2015.

According to the authors: “The Guidance Document is the result of a joint project by ODIHR and PRI that is designed to assist states in implementing the new Rules, so as to protect the right of people deprived of their liberty to be free from torture and other ill-treatment.” The Guidance Document, which is presently only available in English, can be downloaded by clicking on the image below.

Mandella Rules Guidance DocumentPRI’s other key documents on torture prevention can be located under Other Resources in this website’s menu.


Posted by mp in Prisons, Publication, Torture prevention

New ICRC publication: Detention – Addressing the human cost

Human rights actors may be interested to know that the current International Review of the Red Cross (IRRC No. 903) by the ICRC is devoted to the issue of the cost of detention for the detainee, their family and community at large. Titled ‘Detention: Addressing the human costs’ the ICRC publication’s stated focus is as follows:

“Detention can take various forms, but the deprivation of liberty inevitably carries costs that fall on the detainee, their family and the community at large. These costs, both individual and collective, are often linked to other, financial costs that authorities are unwilling to incur on behalf of a group of people who are out of sight. This short-termist calculation has serious implications for prisoners today, and for our societies in the future. Objectively assessing the human, social, political and financial costs of detention policies is essential to avoid detention becoming part of the problem it was meant to solve. In this edition, the Review takes stock of developments in detention practices and policies, and focuses on a range of challenges related to maintaining human dignity in detention, including overcrowding and aging prison populations. In drawing attention to the ongoing challenges associated with detention, the Review seeks to promote the human dignity of detainees.”

The ICRC publication can be downloaded free-of-charge by clicking on the image.

Posted by mp in Places of detention, Police stations, Prisons

New to All Things OPCAT?

If you are new to the world of the OPCAT, then why not watch the following short videos (available in English and French). These animations will throw light on the basic ins-and-outs of this important UN torture prevention instrument. The videos, produced by the Geneva-based Association for the Prevention of Torture, offer a quick insight into the OPCAT. Other OPCAT-focused videos can also be found on-line (see Electronic OPCAT in menu). For the moment, however, please have a look at the following:

Posted by mp in OPCAT, Ratification

New Publication on Mental Health in Prisons

Mental Health in PrisonsPenal Reform International has issued a new publication, Mental health in prisons: A short guide for prison staff. The guide seeks to help prison staff understand and respond appropriately to the mental health needs of adult prisoners. It focuses on how prison staff can promote and protect mental health and well-being and enable those with existing conditions to function better in the prison environment.

The guide will also prove to be a useful tool for independent detention monitors in different national contexts, including Canada.

The publication is currently available in English and Georgian.

Posted by mp