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Tackling torture: leading human rights experts meet in Bristol

Wills Memorial Building

The Wills Memorial Building, home to the University of Bristol Law School

Press release issued: 3 April 2014

Efforts by the UK to prevent torture and protect the human rights of prisoners and other people deprived of their liberty will come under the spotlight at a conference being held in Bristol next week.

High profile speakers, including Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties Simon Hughes and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick, will look at the joint work being done by different bodies to prevent ill-treatment in the UK.

Also among the invited guests are representatives from all four UK jurisdictions, the United Nations, Her Majesty’s Prison Service, The Office of the Children’s Commissioner, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), national human rights institutions and regulators.

The one-day conference is being held on 8 April at the University of Bristol and has been organised by the National Preventive Mechanism of the United Kingdom (UK NPM) in collaboration with the University’s Human Rights Implementation Centre (HRIC), which is well-known for its work in this field.

It marks five years since the UK NPM was established in line with the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) - an international human rights treaty designed to strengthen protection for people deprived of their liberty.

The UK NPM, coordinated by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, is currently made up of 20 visiting or inspecting bodies who visit places of detention such as prisons, police custody, immigration detention centres, children’s secure accommodation and mental health institutions.

Members monitor the conditions and treatment of detainees before making recommendations to prevent torture and ill-treatment.

The conference will reflect on the work of UK NPM to-date and look at wider issues such as what lessons can be learnt from deaths in custody, the role of monitoring, and implementing a human rights framework when inspecting places of detention.

The University of Bristol’s HRIC has an international reputation for its work on OPCAT and its Deputy Director Professor Malcolm Evans OBE is Chair of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT).

Professor Rachel Murray, Director of the Human Rights Implementation Centre, said: “It’s a great honour to have such a wide range of people and stakeholders coming to the University for the conference. The principle behind OPCAT is that regular, independent visits to all places of detention help to improve protection for those held, preventing torture and ill-treatment. Monitoring how the UK tackles this challenge is very important and it will be interesting to critically reflect on how well current measures are working.”

You can follow the conference on social media with the hashtag #UKNPM5.

Further information

About the Human Rights Implementation Centre

The Human Rights Implementation Centre (HRIC) is based in the University of Bristol Law School and provides an international focus for developing expertise, advice and scholarship on the role of institutions, whether those are at the national, regional or international levels, in the implementation of human rights.

These institutions include national governments and non-governmental organisations, but also statutory and constitutional bodies such as national human rights institutions, as well as regional bodies, such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Council of Europe, the Organisation on Security and Co-operation in Europe, as well as those under the UN, both treaty bodies, the Special Procedures and the OHCHR.

The HRIC has been a member of the Association of Human Rights Institutes since September 2013. The Association consists of over 40 member institutions that carry out research and education in the field of human rights. The objective of AHRI is to promote research, education and discussion in the field of human rights.

Students are keenly involved in the work of the HRIC, with a number of opportunities available to gain experience and develop some essential skills for the human rights related work.

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