Conclusion of the Regional Seminar on Establishing a National Preventive Mechanism in Palestine

 

Amman – Organised by the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) in cooperation with Penal Reform International Middle East and North Africa Regional Office (PRI-MENA) in Jordan, the Regional Seminar on Establishing a National Preventive Mechanism in Palestine was concluded on 1 August 2018. Participants in the two-day seminar (31 July–1 August 2018) recommended that a Law on the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) need to be enacted within the first year of signing the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). The law will ensure the independence of the NPM, maintain gender balance, and provide for allocating adequate resources to enable functioning of the NPM. The NPM law will also provide the power for unrestricted visits to detention centres, protection of witnesses and whistle-blowers, and other standards set by the OPCAT. The Ministry of Interior (MoI) and any agencies with the power to detain persons should cooperate with the NPM to facilitate NPM visits, interviews with detained persons, and unrestricted access to records.

In addition to providing a sufficient number of experienced staff, NPM personnel will receive the training they need to carry out the tasks provided by the NPM law. A strategy will be developed to introduce NPM and its functions to all state personnel, particularly to those associated with various detention centres. Training will be provided to detention centre staff, ensuring an adequate understanding of the NPM tasks and recommendations issued with a view to preventing torture. The State of Palestine will pass a law on the prevention of torture in line with the obligations set out in the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT). National consultations will be maintained to develop a clearly defined Palestinian NPM model, which responds to international standards contained in the OPCAT and takes the Palestinian context into account.

The opening session included speeches by Mr. Issam Younis, ICHR Commissioner General; Dr. Ammar Dwaik, ICHR Director General; Ms. Taghreed Jaber, Regional Director of the PRI-MENA Office; Ms. Haitham Arar, MoI Human Rights Unit Coordinator and Coordinator of the National Consultations for NPM Establishment; and Mr. James Heenan, Head of Office, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The seminar brought together representatives of the MoI, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Development, security agencies, police force, Military Medical Services Department, Public Prosecution, Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council, Palestinian Non-Governmental Organisations Network, and Palestinian Bar Association. In addition to PRI-MENA Office, the seminar gathered experts in NPMs from several Arab and foreign countries as well as representatives of national human rights institutions and centres in Iraq and Jordan.

The seminar comprised several sessions and working groups, which elaborated on the Palestinian NPM model, which had been jointly developed by the ICHR and MoI. Discussions included an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the NPM. A presentation provided a review of international NPM models in Georgia, Greece, Armenia, and France. Professor Sir Malcolm Evans of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) provided an overview of the OPCAT and NPM framework of action. Ms. Yasmine Shams, Middle East and North Africa Programme Officer of the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), presented on the effective control and inspection over places of detention. In a presentation titled Prevention of Torture, Mr. Azamat Shambilov, Regional Director of the PRI Central Asia Office, reviewed lessons learnt in Central Asia.

At the close of the seminar, the ICHR honoured Mr. Haitham Shibli, Deputy Director of the PRI-MENA Office, for the efforts invested by the PRI-MENA Office staff to make the seminar a success.