Press Release

High Commissioner for Human Rights Welcomes
New Anti-Torture Treaty; Calls on All States
to become Party

22 June 2006

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour welcomed the entry into force today of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as a milestone in the fight against torture and impunity.

“The Optional Protocol is a fundamental safeguard which will provide fuller means to make the promise of the Convention against Torture a practical reality”, she said. “The monitoring mechanisms, both national and international, established in the Optional Protocol are critical new methods of ensuring the protection of detainees around the world against all forms of mistreatment”.

The Optional Protocol, adopted on 18 December 2002 by the General Assembly, strengthens the Convention against Torture by establishing an international Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture with a mandate to visit places of detention in States parties. The Protocol also requires States parties to set up national preventive mechanisms, which are also to be provided with access to places of detention and prisoners held there. Following these visits, the Sub-Committee and the national preventive mechanisms will make recommendations for improvements in the treatment and the conditions of persons deprived of their liberty, and work with relevant authorities to ensure the implementation of the recommendations. The treaty is entering into force following the accession of Bolivia and Honduras on 23 May 2006. The other 18 States that have also ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol are Albania, Argentina, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Georgia, Liberia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Paraguay, Poland, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and Uruguay.

“The 20 States that have signed up to the Protocol so far have expressed their clear commitment to the elimination of torture, and their willingness to do what it takes to stamp out all mistreatment of detainees”, she said. “This is truly a milestone in efforts to fight torture and impunity. I call on all other States to become party to the Convention against Torture and the Protocol. We have waited a long time for this treaty - let us now all work together to make it effective worldwide.”