Preventing Torture: The Role of National Preventive Mechanisms

A Practical Guide

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This guide was developed in the context of the OHCHR Treaty Body Capacity Building Programme, established by General Assembly Resolution 68/268 to support States parties in building their capacity to implement their treaty obligations, in this case, their obligations under the Optional Protocol. It seeks to respond to key questions frequently asked about National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs), and to explain the four core functions of the mechanisms – visiting, providing advice, enhancing cooperation and educating – which are key to their effective functioning. It includes checklists and other guidance offering practical tools to aid their performance. It aims to assist both States planning to establish or seeking to strengthen their NPMs, as well as the staff of the NPMs themselves.




Among the many measures taken to prevent torture, the establishment of National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) has recently gained prominence. While monitoring bodies have existed in the past, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (adopted in 2002, in force in 2006) has introduced a particular model of preventive monitoring. It combines monitoring at international level (by the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) ) and at national level (by NPMs) through unannounced visits to places where individuals are deprived of liberty. Each of these mechanisms and the interplay between them has the potential for reducing incidences of torture and ill-treatment in the States parties to the Optional Protocol. Given that visits by the SPT are unlikely to be frequent, NPMs play a particularly important role in translating the political will to prevent torture and ill-treatment into practical action “on the ground”, as the frequency of their visits will complement the periodic visits undertaken by the SPT.


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