UN experts call for urgent creation of nat’l body vs torture

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
UN experts call for urgent creation of nat�l body vs torture
This photo taken April 27, 2017 shows people allegedly kept inside a hidden room at the Drug Enforcement Unit of the Manila Police Department's Police Station 1 in the Tondo area of Manila.
AFP / Vincent Go

MANILA, Philippines — Experts from the United Nations stressed Thursday the need to establish a national body dedicated to preventing torture as they wrapped up their visit to the Philippines. 

Victor Zaharia, who heads the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT), said the Philippines should fast-track the adoption of bills that will create a national monitoring body called National Preventive Mechanism. 

“The magnitude of issues observed by the delegation reaffirms the urgency of establishing an independent torture prevention mechanism with unrestricted access to all places of deprivation of liberty,” Zaharia said. 

“This national mechanism, with adequate resources, will be a key partner in preventing torture and ill-treatment in the Philippines,” he added. 

During its mission to the Philippines from December 3 to 14, the SPT delegation visited over 40 places of deprivation of liberty, including police stations, jails, prisons, drug rehabilitation centers, reformation and education facilities for minors, immigration detention centers, and military and drug enforcement agency facilities. 

It conducted interviews with staff members and people held in those institutions and examined the treatment of individuals in different stages of the criminal or rehabilitation system. 

“We witnessed first-hand the State party’s initiatives to tackle issues such as overcrowding in detention facilities, but major challenges lie ahead. It is vital that safeguards in police custody are effectively guaranteed at all times, and that people deprived of their liberty are treated in accordance with the law and international standards,” Zaharia said. 

The delegation also met with government officials, the Commission on Human Rights, members of the House of Representatives, the judiciary, UN representatives, and civil society. 

At the end of the visit, the SPT delegation presented its confidential preliminary observations to the government. It will be followed by a comprehensive report on detailed observations and recommendations to prevent torture and ill-treatment of people deprived of their liberty.

Rights watchdog Karapatan earlier urged the UN SPT to conduct an independent and thorough investigation into the policies and practices of the country’s security forces that lead to torture as well as the use of secret detention facilities.

It has documented 488 victims of torture since July 2010 despite the passage of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009. 

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