The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) is due to make its first visit to Niger from 30 January to 3 February to assess the efforts made by the State to strengthen the protection of people in detention through independent monitoring.
Niger ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in November 2014 but has yet to establish a national detention monitoring body officially known as the National Prevention Mechanism (NPM).
The OPCAT requires countries to set up an independent and sufficiently-resourced monitoring body that has unrestricted access to all places of detention, including prisons, juvenile detention centres, immigration detention facilities and psychiatric facilities.
"The consistent monitoring of places of detention can prevent torture and other human rights violations. Every country that has ratified the OPCAT must create a national body with specific powers to visit places of detention. Assisting the Government of Niger in setting up its NPM and advising on its effective functioning is our key responsibility," said Catherine Paulet who will head the SPT delegation.
"We welcome Niger's commitment to establish its mechanism as soon as possible and we hope that other countries in the region will follow Niger's example by ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and creating national mechanisms to prevent torture and ill-treatment," added Ms. Paulet.
During the visit, experts will meet government officials, the National Assembly, the Judiciary, the Public Prosecutor's Office, the National Human Rights Commission and the members of the Bar Association and the Doctors' Association. They will also hold discussions with UN and civil society representatives.
At the end of the visit, the SPT will submit a confidential report to the Government of Niger, containing its observations and recommendations on the establishment of the NPM to ensure that it can perform its role to prevent torture and ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty. As with all other States, the SPT is encouraging Niger to make this report public.
For the SPT, the key to preventing torture and ill-treatment lies in building constructive relations with the State concerned, and its guiding principles are cooperation and confidentiality.
The SPT delegation will comprise: Catherine Paulet (France), Hans-Jörg Bannwart (Switzerland), Radhia Nasraoui (Tunisia), and Joachim Kojo (Togo).