National monitoring bodies of prison conditions and the European standards

The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2002 and came into force in 2006.
The OPCAT establishes a system of unannounced and unrestricted visits to all places where persons are deprived of their liberty by independent international and national monitoring bodies. When a State ratifies the OPCAT, its main obligation is to set up a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to undertake regular visits to places of detention. For the first time, an international treaty focuses on national implementation and provides a national body with specific powers to prevent torture and ill-treatment. NPMs are mandated to conduct regular visit to all types of places where persons are deprived of liberty. These visits should lead to reports and concrete recommendations to improve the protection of persons deprived of liberty. NPMs can also make comments on laws and regulations and propose reforms. Every year, NPMs have to publish an annual report on their activities and torture prevention issues in their country.
Half of the States in the world have expressed an interest in the system promoted by the OPCAT. As of February 2014, 72 States had ratified the OPCAT and an additional 20 States had signed the treaty. Many others have started consultations at the national level in the view of ratification. (www.apt.ch/en/opcat)...read more