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UN torture treaty strengthened by new protocol on visits to detention centers

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile; JURIST news archive] Thursday announced [press release] the entry into force of an Optional Protocol [text] to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [text] on detention visitations. The Optional Protocol, adopted in December 2002 by the UN General Assembly, was signed in May by Honduras and Bolivia, and will now bind the 20 signatory nations - most prominently the United Kingdom - to stronger protections against torture and degrading treatment of detainees. According to a UN press release the Protocol

...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.
In announcing the Protocol's entry into force, Arbour welcomed other countries to sign the document and permit UN visits to their detention centers to ensure compliance with the Convention [JURIST news archive]. The United States is not a party to the new agreement. In November, UN human rights representatives called off a visit [JURIST report] to the US terror detention facility at Guantanamo Bay after US officials formally refused their demand for unconditional access to detainees. UN News has more.

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