Mark Thomson, APT Secretary General, describes the potential for the Torture Prevention Ambassadors to drive long-term change in their countries across the Asia Pacific.
Nine commissioners and senior staff members from National Human Rights Institutions in Australia, South Korea, Maldives, Mongolia, New Zealand, Philippines and Timor Leste were selected to design and implement individual projects in their countries. As support, they were given a small grant as well as regular guidance of experienced mentors Chris Sidoti and Marco Mona.
The project draws on two key factors: the unique role that NHRIs can play in preventing torture and the potential of individual actors for change to prevent torture and ill-treatment at an institutional and country level.
The group first met in Sydney 10 – 13 November 2014 for a kick-off workshop to discuss ideas and refine their project plans.
The mid-term results were presented at the 20th APF Biennial Conference, in Mongolia in August 2015.
Finally, the Torture Prevention Ambassadors met in Geneva, in June 2016, to review and share their outcomes and lessons learned at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council. The outcomes have also been compiled in a Good Practice Report, to inspire other National Human Rights Institutions to develop further torture prevention actions, in the region and beyond.
Read more about the Torture Prevention Ambassadors on the website of the Asia Pacific Forum:
Name: Sarah Dillon, Policy Officer and Prabha Nandagopal, Principal Adviser
Australian Human Rights Commission
Project: Changing minds, changing laws: addressing cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of asylum seekers
Objective: A heightened public awareness of the deleterious impacts of mandatory indefinite immigration detention on the health and wellbeing of detainees, particularly children, leading to increased public support for reform in this area to make law and policy consistent with international human rights obligations
Name: Zulaikha Dawood, Inspection Officer, National Preventive Mechanism
Human Rights Commission of the Maldives. This project was commenced by Jeehan Mahmood, former Commissioner, and Fathimath Ibrahim Didi, former head of the NPM.
Project: A platform for strengthening the national OPCAT system
Objectives: Revive the National OPCAT Coordinating Committee as a platform to follow up and implement recommendations of the NPM and SPT; develop Operating Guidelines for the National OPCAT Coordinating Committee; consolidate the NPM's operation procedures into one manual for internal efficiency and translate into English to share with NPMs globally.
Name: Oyunchimeg Purev, Commissioner, Mongolia Human Rights Commission.
Project: Enforcing the law, preventing torture
Objectives: Develop sustainable approaches to training law enforcement in torture prohibition and prevention; enhance key actors knowledge about relevant UN recommendations relating to torture and an NPM
Name: Agar-Erdene Gankhuyag, Head of policy analysis and human rights education, Mongolia Human Rights Commission.
Project: A manual for prevention
Objective: Build the capacity of current and future NHRI staff to undertake the role of NPM by developing a prison monitoring manual and training staff on its use
Name: Michael White, Senior Legal Officer, New Zealand Human Rights Commission.
Project: Expanding the scope and reach of OPCAT monitoring
Objective: Investigate whether OPCAT monitoring in New Zealand can be expanded in scope to address existing gaps where elderly and others groups are vulnerable to abuse
Name: Jacqueline De Guia, Regional office director, Philippines Commission on Human Rights.
Project: Partnering with the police for prevention
Objective: Improve police welfare to trickle down to result in benefits in the way detainees are treated, thus reducing risks of torture and ill-treatment
Name: Kim Young-Hye, Commissioner, National Human Rights Commission of Korea.
Project: From reacting to abuse and ill-treatment in detention to preventing it
Objective: Improve treatment in military mental health hospitals and immigration detention facilities, and raise public and stakeholder awareness about OPCAT and the need for preventive monitoring.
Name: Sidonio Soares, Monitor Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Commission of Timor Leste.
Project: Tackling torture in Timor-Leste
Objective: Build the capacity of NHRI to gather and record information on torture and ill-treatment through its monitoring work; and build partnerships between NHRI and civil working in prisons
The Torture Prevention Ambassadors project is funded by the European Union, as part of a three year APF project to strengthen the capacity of National Human Rights Institutions in the Asia-Pacific to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment.