Friday, May 28, 2010

OSCE assists in strengthening role of Azerbaijan's Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) to prevent torture

A series of events to strengthen the role of Azerbaijan's Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) in the prevention of torture and ill treatment began Monday with a conference organized by the OSCE Office in Baku and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Commissioner's Office and the Parliament of Azerbaijan.

According to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, each State Party is responsible for developing a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to regularly monitor places where people are deprived of liberty, such as prisons, detention centres and psychiatric facilities, to ensure reasonable conditions and treatment. Following the ratification of the Optional Protocol by Azerbaijan in January 2009, President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree assigning the responsibility for Azerbaijan's NPM to the Commissioner for Human Rights.

"We believe that an independent and strong National Preventive Mechanism can serve as an effective domestic tool to ensure the prevention of torture and ill-treatment in places of detention. Azerbaijan is to be applauded for ratifying the Optional Protocol and designating the Commissioner for Human Rights as the National Preventive Mechanism," said Ambassador Bilge Cankorel, the Head of the OSCE Office in Baku.

Liane Adler, ODIHR's representative at the conference, stressed the importance of strengthening the legislative framework for the National Preventive Mechanism and securing sufficient financial and human resources for its activities.

The conference brings together representatives of the Commissioner's Office, state justice and law enforcement authorities, international organizations and civil society to discuss ways to strengthen the Commissioner's capacity to assume its NPM role. Representatives of the UN Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the Association for the Prevention of Torture, as well as an expert from the Human Rights Implementation Centre at Bristol University are also taking part.

Following the conference, the OSCE Office in Baku and ODIHR will hold two additional events - the launch of the new Azerbaijani translation of the Guide on Monitoring Places of Detention prepared by the Geneva-based Association for the Prevention of Torture, and a workshop to strengthen the operational capacity of the Commissioner's staff and other stakeholders to perform their respective functions as part of the National Preventive Mechanism.

Source: OSCE. Published in Baku on 24 May 2010

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