Human Rights Implementation Centre celebrates first anniversary with launch of NPM database.
25 September 2010
University of Bristol Law School's Human Rights Implementation Centre (HRIC) celebrated its first anniversary with the launch of a database providing information on the Mandates and Functioning of the Institutions Comprising the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) for the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom ratified OPCAT on 10 December 2003, and the instrument came into force for the UK on 22 June 2006. This triggered a requirement to establish a National Preventive Mechanism for the UK. On 30 March 2009, in a written Ministerial Statement, 18 institutions were designated to fulfil the mandate of the NPM for the UK. The duty of coordinating the work of the institutions constituting the NPM was placed upon Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP).
- In England and England and Wales the institutions are: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP); the Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB) ; the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA); Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC); the Care Quality Commission (CQC); the Healthcare Inspectorate of Wales (HIW); the Children’s Commissioner for England (CCE);the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW); and the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED)
- In Scotland the institutions are: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS); Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland (HMICS); the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC); the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (MWCS); the Care Commission (CC); and the Independent Custody Visiting Association in Scotland (ICVAS)
- In Northern Ireland the institutions are: the Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBNI); Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI); the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA); and the Northern Ireland Policing Board Independent Custody Visiting Scheme (NIPBICVS)
The aim of the resulting HRIC UK NPM database is to provide an insight into mandates of each of these institutions through the lens of OPCAT, and outline the requirements for the NPM that the instrument sets out. It is not aimed at evaluating the compatibility of the mandates of each of institutions with the requirements of OPCAT, but rather to provide the reader with the necessary information to make any assessments they may wish.
The HRIC's pioneering work in this area builds upon that previously carried out by the OPCAT project, an AHRC-sponsored research project on the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment. The Database has already received significant recognition as, following its inauguration, the UK Ministry of Justice requested to set up a direct link to it through its 'Guidance on OPCAT ' web page.
The UN Convention against Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment was adopted in 1984. In December 2002 an Optional Protocol to the Convention was approved which provided for a system of visits to places of detention to be carried out by independent national and international bodies. It is believed that such visits can be an important element in combating torture and in preventing it from occurring. The Optional Protocol establishes a Sub-Committee to the Committee against Torture composed of 10 independent experts who will conduct regular visits to state parties. Professor Malcolm Evans of the HRIC is currently a member of the Sub-Committee to the Committee against Torture. In addition, under Articles 3 and 17 of the Protocol:
‘Each State Party shall maintain, designate or establish, at the latest one year after the entry into force of the present Protocol or of its ratification or accession, one or several independent national preventive mechanisms for the prevention of torture at the domestic level. Mechanisms established by decentralized units may be designated as national preventive mechanisms for the purposes of the present Protocol if they are in conformity with its provisions’.
On ratifying the Protocol states commit themselves to certain standards with respect to these national institutions including: guaranteeing the independence of the national mechanism (Article 18 of the Protocol); the power of the national mechanism to have ‘unrestricted access’ to all relevant information, to visit all places of detention and to make relevant recommendations (Articles 19 and 20); protection of those with whom the national mechanism communicates (Article 21); and the requirement that states publish and disseminate the reports of the national mechanism (Article 23).