23 October 2012
Professor Malcolm Evans OBE, the Chair of the largest international torture-prevention body in the United Nations [UN] — the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), will be making his annual address to the UN General Assembly in New York today [23 October].
Professor Evans will present the fifth annual SPT report to the General Assembly, the main deliberative, policymaking and representative function of the UN comprising representatives from all 193 member states. The event provides a forum for discussion of the full spectrum of international issues.
Professor Evans, an expert in international human rights at the University of Bristol Law School was elected Chair of the SPT in 2011. The international body has a purely preventive mandate focused on field visits to places of deprivation of liberty with a view to reducing the risk of torture or ill-treatment as well as on advising and assisting States in the establishment of National Preventive Mechanisms and engaging with those mechanisms in the advancement of their work. It co-operates also with other international, regional and national bodies and agencies engaged in activities related to torture prevention.
Comprising independent experts in the area of torture prevention the SPT was established in accordance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture of June 2006. The treaty creates a two-pillar system, at the international and national levels, designed to prevent torture and other forms of ill treatment in all places of detention.
Professor Evans said: “Our major goal is to see effective National Preventive Mechanisms established in all States parties in accordance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture criteria as swiftly as possible. When coupled with international oversight by the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, we consider this to be the most potent means possible to prevent torture and ill-treatment.
“The recent significant increase from ten to 25 members of this key UN torture-prevention body led the SPT to conclude that it can most effectively conduct its work by undertaking an increased number of shorter field visits with a more targeted focus.
"While there remains much to be concerned about, we believe that working in collaboration with our colleagues at the UN – in particular the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Committee against Torture – and elsewhere we can continue to make steady progress in erecting safeguards to help prevent torture and ill-treatment from occurring and we look forward to more States parties joining us on this journey.”
Professor Evans also highlighted that an SPT visit is designed to set in motion an on-going preventive dialogue. At the end of 2011, the SPT announced that it would conduct six visits in 2012 – twice as many as before – with three of these targeted on providing advice and assistance regarding the work of National Preventive Mechanisms.
The Committee’s expansion is the result of increased ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), which currently has 63 State parties.
Professor Malcolm Evans
Malcolm Evans is Professor of Public International Law at the University of Bristol and has served as Head of the School of Law (2003-2005) and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law (2005-2009). Professor Evans is a renowned authority in the field of international law of the sea and international human rights protection, particularly torture and torture prevention and freedom of religion or belief. In 2009, he was elected member of the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and in 2010 elected as Chairperson.
Professor Malcolm Evans, OBE
United Nations General Assembly Hall in the UN Headquarters, New York, NY
Image by Basil D Soufi
While there remains much to be concerned about, we believe that working in collaboration with our colleagues at the UN – in particular the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Committee against Torture – and elsewhere we can continue to make steady progress in erecting safeguards to help prevent torture and ill-treatment from occurring and we look forward to more States parties joining us on this journey.