Publication

COPCAT Shorts – CTI Best Practices Excluding Torture Evidence

Tired and jaded by constantly reading about COVID-19? Then look no further, dear readers, than the Geneva-based Convention Against Torture Initiative’s (CTI) excellent new tool on best practices excluding torture evidence. The CTI tool, while not exactly the most sunny of reads subject matter-wise, is unquestionably a very useful resource. Better still, it has nothing remotely to do with the wretched coronavirus, currently blighting our lives.

Prepared by the highly respected NGO REDRESS for CTI, the organizations have brought to the fore another exceptionally high quality resource aimed at ensuring adherence to the UN Convention against Torture’s key Article 15, prohibiting the admission of evidence obtained by torture in any proceedings.

The new CTI tool.

Published on 27 April 2020, the accompanying CTI press release outlines the objectives of the tool:

“CTI’s new tool is tailored to State policy-makers, police investigators, prosecutors, medical practitioners and judges, and explains not only the important rationale of Article 15 for the overall effectiveness of investigations and court proceedings, but shares a range of positive State practices. The tool clarifies that the rule of non-admission of the use of evidence obtained by torture puts an important break on corrupt practices, removes one of the primary incentives for abuse, and safeguards due process rights and the fairness of court proceedings. Applying this rule helps dismantle unreliable confession-based policing and results in better and more reliable evidence gathering and investigations.

The tool’s compilation of good State practices are drawn from 24 countries from all geographical regions and showcase legislative, policy and practical ways the “exclusionary rule” is being respected.”

In its opening pages the tool outlines 8 extremely compelling reasons for excluding evidence obtained by way of torture or ill-treatment – notwithstanding the illegality of the practice – which serve as a useful reminder of why this all-important provision must always hold firm.

In order to ensure that torture evidence is excluded in everyday practice, CTI’s resource identifies the key role played by different criminal justice actors, including:

  • Police interviewers and investigators;
  • Prosecutors;
  • Medical practitioners;
  • Judges.

While the tool’s focus on the above actors may not be especially new, the citation of numerous specific country examples very much brings the document to life.

Prison – Anthony Albright (2020).

The CTI tool additionally advances a range of examples of national-focused proceedings and processes which specifically exclude evidence obtained through torture, including from countries as diverse as Australia, South Africa, England and Wales, Brazil and Thailand.

The final section of the tool titled Procedures and Practices to Exclude Torture Evidence: Things to Consider is especially useful. It comprises a list of questions to bear in mind when considering existing laws, procedures and instructions as well as in relation to the implementation of new procedures and encouraging new practices.

Best of all, none of the above has anything to do with the coronavirus. Thus, immense thanks are due to CTI and REDRESS, not only for producing another highly practical and informative resource, but equally for a much-needed distraction from the current gloom-laden news headlines!

Interested readers may also wish to scrutinize more closely CTI’s other excellent resources which form its so-called UNCAT Implementation Tools, all of which are designed to share good practices among states on the effective implementation of the UN Convention against Torture.


Download CTI’s Non-admission of evidence obtained by torture and ill-treatment: Procedures and practices tool.

Learn more about the Convention Against Torture Initiative.

Discover other torture-prevention resources.

Check out Dignity’s legal fact-sheets on torture prevention.

Posted by mp in Absolute prohibition of torture, Publication, Tools, Torture prevention, UNCAT

More Essential Christmas Reading – The UNCAT & its Optional Protocol

Christmas really did come early this year – very early.

Who would have thought that the second edition of the key publication, The United Nations Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol: A Commentary would ever be made available free-of-charge as an open source document? The book currently retails at over 400 CDN, but you can access an electronic version for free (by clicking on the Open Access icon on the top right of the screen at the following link). Its editors Manfred Nowak, Moritz Birk and Guiliana Monina as well as the publishers have our immense thanks!

Flabbergasted? Entirely.

Originally published by Oxford University Press in 2008, this key reference work on the UN Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol now has updated sections, including on the implementation of the OPCAT and the operation of NPMs in practice. The publication is a veritable goldmine for countries like Canada which have yet to ratify the OPCAT and might require an authoritative account of the instrument’s main articles.

For the record, while Professor Nowak et al edited and wrote much of this volume, the majority of the 300-odd pages in the section of the book focusing on the OPCAT were penned by Kerstin Buchinger and Stephanie Krisper. Both writers have been engaged in the activities of the Austrian NPM, the Austrian Ombudsman Board, so have experienced NPM work at first hand.

Over a decade ago this Canada OPCAT Project writer was only ever able to read the first edition of this fantastic tome, as Professor Nowak had very kindly presented a copy as a gift to the Association for the Prevention of Torture, where this author was employed at the time – such was its hefty cost. In a nutshell, the Canada OPCAT Project is therefore only too pleased to bring to your attention this excellent resource, which readers might wish to put right on top of their Christmas reading list.


Discover more essential Christmas reading on the OPCAT here.

Access Nowak et al The UN Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol: A Commentary.

Explore the OPCAT Academics section of this website.

Posted by mp in NPMs, OPCAT, Publication, Tools

COPCAT Shorts – New Dignity Fact Sheet

Dignity – Danish Institute Against Torture has unleashed on the torture-prevention world a brand new Fact Sheet. Published as No. 10 in Dignity’s superbly useful series of Legal Fact Sheets, its focus on Prisoner Contact Rights offers a succinct overview of this topic, citing various relevant international standards such as, among others, the UN Nelson Mandela Rules.

New Dignity Fact Sheet on Prisoner Contact Rights (November 2019).

Dignity’s entire collection of Legal Fact Sheets merit closer examination by detention monitors and human rights actors alike. To date, this distinguished Copenhagen-based international NGO has covered an array of important topics, including the following:

Legal No. 1 – Defining Torture

Legal No. 2 – Redressing Torture

Legal No. 3 – Preventing Torture

Legal No. 4 – Investigating Torture

Legal No. 5 – Criminalizing Torture

Legal No. 6 – Prosecuting Torture

Legal No. 7 – Safeguards in Police Custody

Legal No. 8 – Torture & Migration

Legal No. 9 – Pre-Trial Detention

Additionally, Dignity has also produced a non-numbered Fact Sheet on Corruption & Torture, a topic of concern highlighted on this website. If that were not enough for the over-worked, time-poor and possibly under-paid, but highly thought-of reader, the organization has published a whole range of other useful resources relating to the prevention of torture, not least on the broader issues of health and rehabilitation.

For Canadian readers perhaps less familiar with Dignity, now some 37 years into their existence, why not explore the organization’s website. After all, what is there not to like about this exceedingly fine international human rights organization?!


Read more about Dignity – Danish Institute Against Torture, including its long history.

Explore Dignity’s 10 different Legal Fact Sheets and other publications.

Learn more about the UN Nelson Mandela Rules and UNODC’s related posters.

Check out this website’s ‘Other Resources’ for more tools and reports about deprivation of liberty.

Posted by mp

New Publication – Preventing and Addressing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Places of Deprivation of Liberty

Fresh off their Warsaw printing presses OSCE-ODIHR has published yet another very welcome practical resource, this time on the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence in places of detention.

On 9 August 2019 the inter-governmental organization released the publication, Preventing and Addressing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Places of Deprivation of Liberty: Standards, Approaches and Examples from the OSCE Region, which – at 170 pages or so in length – tackles this highly topical issue in considerable detail. More importantly, the publication is highly practical and usable too.

As one of the OSCE’s 57 participating States (although this fact is sometimes seemingly forgotten in Canada) the publication has direct relevance in the Canadian context.

The official OSCE-ODIHR description accompanying this new resource reads as follows:

The purpose of this publication is to improve the understanding of sexual and gender-based violence on the part of state actors and civil society, including an understanding of how such violence manifests in places of deprivation of liberty. It also identifies many of the factors that increase the vulnerability of persons deprived of their liberty and aims to contribute to the reduction and eventual elimination of sexual and gender-based violence in places of deprivation of liberty. The publication is primarily intended for policymakers, lawmakers and practitioners from criminal justice systems, including lawyers, prosecutors, judges and anyone else involved in arresting, investigating, interrogating or detaining suspects, those accused of a crime and prisoners or detainees.”

In this respect, the new publication complements very well a number of existing detention related guides currently available to detention monitors, human rights activists and criminal justice practitioners. The APT’s 2018 publication Towards the Effective Protection of LGBTI Persons Deprived of Liberty: A Monitoring Guide springs immediately to mind, which was also featured on this website.

OSCE-ODIHR’s brand-new contribution to the wider literature comprises some seven individual sections, as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Core concepts
  • Background: What do we know about sexual and gender-based violence in places of deprivation of liberty?
  • Risk and needs assessments
  • Reducing risk in specific situations
  • Other measures to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence
  • Conclusion

Three annexes complement the main body of text, highlighting key recommendations drawn from the publication as well as providing a very useful checklist for monitoring visits on sexual and gender-based violence in places of deprivation of liberty.

Solitary confinement
Solitary Confinement by garshna (2013).

The many specific country examples and ECtHR case-law excerpts also very much bring the document alive, adding colour to it and making it highly accessible to the reader. In short, the numerous country examples give the reader much to think about and draw on in their own national contexts.

The publication concludes as follows:

Sexual and gender-based violence in places of deprivation of liberty is preventable and should never be tolerated. This publication has sought to dig deep into this human rights violation and has demonstrated the need to raise awareness of its pervasiveness, enhance research and implement measures for its prevention

The recommendations in this publication serve as guidance for actions to be undertaken to step up OSCE participating States’ monitoring and reporting efforts in relation to SGBV. They should also help them to develop comprehensive methods for upholding human rights by creating appropriate safeguards.

This publication serves as a first step towards more detailed guidance and tools on the topic for practitioners, including both state authorities and non-governmental organizations. ODIHR will continue to raise awareness of this topic, in line with its mandate, and provide support to OSCE participating States willing to eradicate sexual and gender-based violence in places of deprivation of liberty.”

In a word, once again OSCE-ODIHR has made an invaluable contribution to the wider human rights literature on the topic of deprivation of liberty, providing a highly practical guide on what can be done on the ground to counter sexual and gender-based violence in detention.


Download Preventing and Addressing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Places of Deprivation of Liberty: Standards, Approaches and Examples from the OSCE Region in English.

Explore the APT’s Towards the Effective Protection of LGBTI Persons Deprived of Liberty: A Monitoring Guide.

Read other detention related resources here.

Read an overview of two recent UN publications on women in detention, including in Canada.

Posted by mp in Places of detention, Publication, Torture prevention, Women prisoners

New Publication – Implementation of the Bangkok Rules

Hot off the presses of the world-renowned international NGO, Penal Reform International, and its partner, Thailand Institute of Justice, comes another key resource aimed at supporting actors implement the UN Bangkok Rules.

This brand new practical resource, Guide to the rehabilitation and social reintegration of women prisoners: Implementation of the Bangkok Rules aptly complements PRI’s other publications which comprise its excellent UN Bangkok Rules Toolbox (as also highlighted in these pages under Other Resources). According to the authors of the new publication:

“Women and girls are a minority within prison systems, making up just 6.9 per of the global prison population. As a result, their specific needs and characteristics have tended to remain unacknowledged and unaddressed. Women continue to face particularly acute challenges and barriers in accessing programmes and services in prison, and there are often limited rehabilitation opportunities available to them.”

In the Canadian context, the Office of the Correctional Investigator has documented such challenges and barriers in its past Annual Reports. Similarly, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women echoed related concerns during its 2016 examination of Canada in Geneva, Switzerland.  

The authors have underpinned the utility of this guide on the implementation of the UN Bangkok Rules in the following terms:

“This new tool, developed in collaboration with the Thailand Institute of Justice, is designed for use by prison management, staff, policymakers and others involved in the criminal justice process, including legislators, judges and law enforcement officials. It aims to provide practical guidance on improving existing rehabilitation programmes and services and designing new ones, looking at different country contexts and taking into account location-specific challenges and opportunities.”

“This guide summarises the importance of good prisoner rehabilitation and social reintegration programmes and identifies the main barriers to successful rehabilitation, including the particular barriers faced by female prisoners and by specific groups of female prisoners such as girls, foreign nationals and women from ethnic minority groups. Identifying these barriers provides an insight into why additional efforts are needed to assist the rehabilitation of women offenders.”

Beyond the above users, Canadian detention monitors and human rights actors could equally employ this resource as a helpful reference point for gauging strong or weak domestic penal practice in the domain of the rehabilitation and social integration of women prisoners.

Similarly, in countries which have ratified the OPCAT (not to-date Canada), NPMs might also resort to the guide as a useful tool in assessing practice in this respect.

The thrust of this tool, found in part 2 titled Guidance, is especially relevant, comprising some four main sections, as follows:

  • Baseline for successful rehabilitation;
  • Education, vocational training and work;
  • Preparation for release and post-release support;
  • And rehabilitation programmes for specific groups.

As we human beings come in different shapes and sizes, the latter focus is sensitive to the needs of different types of prisoners. As such, this section centres on the rehabilitation needs of diverse groups including girls, pregnant women and women with children, foreign nationals, racial and ethnic minorities and Indigenous prisoners, prisoners with different mental and physical healthcare needs, LGBTI prisoners, as well as older prisoners.

barring freedom by meesh 2012

The publication concludes with a useful list of 10 key principles for gender-sensitive rehabilitation programmes, which in itself could act as a practical yardstick for Canadian detention monitors and penal reformers.

In a nutshell, the Guide to the rehabilitation and social reintegration of women prisoners: Implementation of the Bangkok Rules makes a valuable contribution to PRI’s myriad of other excellent resources on the subject as well as the wider implementation of the Bangkok Rules, which will be useful for human rights actors, penal reformers and detention monitors alike.  


Download the new publication, Guide to the rehabilitation and social reintegration of women prisoners: Implementation of the Bangkok Rules.

Read PRI/OSCE-ODIHR’s 2018 publication, Guidance Document on the Nelson Mandela Rules.

Learn more about how the incarceration of Indigenous Canada in PRI’s Global Prison Trends 2019.

Explore PRI’s other key resources, including on this website.

Learn more about the work of the Thailand Institute of Justice.

Posted by mp in Publication, Tools, Women prisoners

COPCAT Shorts: Launch of ICPA Planning & Design Hub

The ICPA Planning and Design Hub strives to inspire, challenge and motivate architects, administrators and professionals from across the world to create more humane correctional facilities. The Hub includes projects, resources and discussion threads regarding exemplary practice in correctional planning and design. We believe that this website will be a valuable tool for all of you who are interested in the built environment. Thus far, projects and resources from several countries and various focus areas are posted.

Abstract from International Corrections & Prisons Association – ‘ICPA Launches a Planning and Design Hub’ at the following website.

Planning & Design Hub

Visit the ICPA Planning and Design Hub.

Lean more about the recent launch of the ICPA’s External Prison Oversight and Human Rights Network and read its first newsletter.

Read the related ICRC publication, Towards Humane Prisons: A Principled & Participatory Approach To Prisons Planning & Design.

Planning & Design

Posted by mp in Prisons, Publication, Tools

New Publication: Protecting LGBTI Persons in Detention

The Geneva-based Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) has added to its many other detention monitoring resources through the publication of its new tool, Towards the Effective Protection of LGBTI Persons Deprived of Liberty: A Monitoring Guide. The latter is available for download in English.

LGBTI Monitoring GuideWeighing in at a welcomely exhaustive 130-odd pages this superb publication offers first-class guidance on monitoring various detention settings where LGBTI persons might be deprived of their liberty.

Written by Jean-Sébastien Blanc, the APT’s Director of Thematic Programmes, and based on extensive consultation with key human rights actors, the new guide complements the organization’s numerous other tools with a focus on detention, including prisons, police facilities, immigration detention, and psychiatric and social care settings. Many of the APT’s publications are featured in these pages under Other Resources.

Significantly, the UN Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz offers the following thoughts in the publication’s Foreword, highlighting the gap it fills:

Upon entering a place of deprivation of liberty, I have had meetings in which authorities were visibly uncomfortable at the sole use of the word lesbian and others in which I was informed that gay men are a construct of other parts of the world and not existing in that context. While the legal argument that condoms are criminal paraphernalia is only made in the 71 countries that still criminalise same sex relations, in the rest of the world the stigma associated to the mere existence of LGTBI persons remains deeply entrenched in the collective awareness.

Up to this day, I have never had an experience where policies in places of detention catered for bisexual persons or revealed an understanding of intersexuality. While great progress has been made in relation to the needs of trans persons, they remain the most mistreated of all persons deprived of liberty …

The reader of this manual, possibly about to engage in a visit that hopefully will impact persons’ lives and contribute to social change, may experience apprehension deriving from an awareness of just how little one single person can know about the enormous range of problems and needs connected to sexual orientation and gender identity in places of deprivation of liberty, a concern that I know only too well. This guide – prepared by the Association for the Prevention of Torture with great attention to the current state of international human rights law, best practices in the field of torture prevention, and the wealth of experience of the extraordinary group of experts that provided its substance – will provide an understanding of the factors of risk and the acts, patterns and extreme manifestations of torture and ill treatment against LGTI persons, and is an invaluable blueprint for any conceptual understanding of these.

In this connection there can be no doubt that the APT guide ably accomplishes what it sets out to achieve. The publication is divided into five main chapters, the first of which highlights the specific exposure of LGBTI detainees to torture and other ill-treatment. It is then followed by an in-depth focus on the key considerations relating to monitoring methodology, closely examining all stages of the detention monitoring process from planning a programme of visits through to reporting on their findings.

The latter three chapters offer useful practical insights into three frequently encountered detention contexts. These include a focus on the monitoring of the situation of LGBTI persons in: (a) prisons; (b) police custody as well as the wider context of policing; and (c) immigration detention. In doing so, these chapters offer the reader detailed guidance on key aspects of monitoring such detention regimes.

In bringing to the fore such a key publication the APT has once again succeeded in equipping detention monitors and human rights actors alike at the national level with an invaluable tool aimed at enhancing the protection of a particularly vulnerable group of persons when deprived of their liberty.

***

Readers are kindly invited to download the publication and explore its contents.

Discover more background information about the guide.

Read author Jean-Sébastien Blanc’s guest blog about his new contribution to torture prevention for Penal Reform International.

Posted by mp in Independent detention monitors, Monitoring tools, Publication, Tools

COPCAT Shorts: UNODC Nelson Mandela Rules Posters

Nelson Mandela Rules postersFor readers perhaps not in the know, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has produced a set of five posters on the Nelson Mandela Rules.

More formally known as the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, UNODC’s Nelson Mandela Rules posters focus on key provisions of this vitally important soft-law instrument. Alongside we highlight the poster focusing on Rules 43 to 46 on restrictions and sanctions.

However, other ‘instructional placards’ (as UNODC refers to them) focus on detention themes as diverse as the provision of health care and legal aid, the conduct of searches, and the basic principles underpinning the SMRs. These include the treatment of prisoners with respect and without discrimination and the strict prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment.

The posters are available in Arabic, English, French, Russian and Spanish and can be downloaded directly from the UNODC website.

You can download here the English and French versions.

UNODC’s many other invaluable tools and publications on an array of criminal justice issues, including penal reform, can also be downloaded in different languages.

 

Posted by mp in Publication, Tools

New ICRC Blog & Publications on Detention

In a new ICRC blog published this week, Helen Durham, the ICRC’s Director of International Law and Policy, serves up considerable food for thought in relation to the harsh realities faced by detainees in armed conflict and how the legal framework protecting such persons might be reinforced and translated into greater protection at the operational level. In her discussion the writer identifies three areas of work where she believes that the ICRC has contributed to enhanced protection. These include the on-going process of updating the commentary on the Third Geneva Convention (on the treatment of prisoners of war) as well as efforts to strengthen the protection of International Humanitarian Law vis-a-vis detainees in the context of non-international armed conflict.

For the purposes of this website, however, of more direct interest will be the writer’s focus on the ICRC’s work to contribute to better conditions of detention for persons who are held in prisons. In doing so, Helen highlights the two important ICRC publications illustrated below. According to the author:

“Building on its extensive experience in visiting prisons and engaging with prison authorities, the ICRC has just released a set of guiding principles on prison planning and design. The ICRC has also cooperated with leading academics to update a Handbook for Prison Staff on a ‘Human Rights Approach to Prison Management’. These are very concrete tools that I can warmly recommend to anyone involved in prison planning and management.”

While certain Canadian human rights and criminal justice actors may well be familiar with earlier editions of this updated version of the publication, A Human Rights Approach to Prison Management (issued with the Centre for Criminal Policy Research in 2018), others may be less familiar with Towards Humane Prisons (also published in 2018). Both publications (which are currently available in English) can be obtained by clicking on the images below.

ICRC blog publication            ICRC blog publications

Please note that the 2nd edition of A Human Rights Approach to Prison Management is available in French.

Other ICRC publications of interest can be found under Other Resources.

Posted by mp

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