Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) has previously published “Common mind on the Prevention of Torture” and “National Preventive Mechanisms, Is Turkish Human Rights Institution is the Proper One?” within the framework of action for the ratification of ‘United Nations (UN) Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture’ and in its aftermath, and emphasised the importance of the establishment of national preventive mechanisms in these studies. HRFT has also published a report assessing the country’s progress towards the establishment of national preventive mechanisms during the year 2013 and the first half of 2014 against international standards. The study at hand has been prepared for the purposes of periodic review and monitoring of the implementation of the Optional Protocol during the one-year period between July 2014 and July 2015.
This report is based on the principles of the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), which we take as the reference document. The OPCAT was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 18 December 2002 and it entered into force on 22 June 2006. As of 21 July 2015, there are 79 state parties to the OPCAT and an additional 18 states are signatories. Turkey ratified OPCAT on 27 September 2011. Article 1 of the OPCAT sets the objective of the Protocol as “to establish a system of regular visits undertaken by independent international and national bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
According to the Protocol, each State Party is obliged to maintain, designate or establish national preventive mechanisms (NPMs), which should comply with the minimum requirements as outlined in the OPCAT, to fulfill their commitment to preventing torture. Accordingly, State Parties should clearly specify the mandate and powers of the NPMs in a constitutional or legislative text and allow NPMs unrestricted access to all places of detention to conduct announced/ unannounced visits without interference by State authorities by guaranteeing functional and institutional independence of NPMs and providing adequate financial and human resources for their effective functioning.
Article 17 of the OPCAT requires States Parties to establish their NPM(s) no later than one year after ratification or accession. In line with this obligation, Turkey had to establish or designate an NMP until 27 October 2012. However, the mechanism was not designated until 28 January 2014, when a Cabinet Decree, designating Human Rights Institution of Turkey (HRIT) as the national preventive mechanism, was promulgated in the Official Gazette.
Thus, HRIT was designated as the national prevention mechanism despite the provisions of the Paris Principles and the OPCAT and barrage of concerns and criticism from relevant NGOs, international society and from public institutions themselves, which pointed out to the fact that the HRIT did not have the institutional or functional capacity to perform this task. Based on the general consensus on lack of independence and capacity, and considering the fact that the HRIT has been established as a human rights body, it became evident that the institutional framework and activities of the HRIT should be revised to assume a preventive mandate.