National Campain on Torture eradication and OPCAT implementation

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Opening places of detention to external control mechanisms, as the Optional Protocol does, is one of the most effective means to prevent abusive practices and to improve conditions of detention. 

Based on the purpose of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (hereinafter OPCAT) to establish a system of regular visits undertaken by independent bodies to places of detention, ARCT maintained collaboration and support to the newly established Albanian NPM, enhancing its capacities and impact in the moment where the People’s Advocate was absent due to political instabilities in electing the new People’s Advocate (from early 2010 – until December 2011), through:

 oInstitutionalizing the partnership through written agreements 

  1. oProviding professional mental health support/ expertise during the regular and unannounced monitoring visits (ARCT multidisciplinary team of experts: general practitioners, psychiatrists, psychologist, social workers, lawyers and human rights experts were part of joint monitoring visits).
  2. oSupporting the Albanian NPM in producing and publishing its Activity Report since its establishment (special number of the ARCT Journal, published in Albanian and English was dedicated to the issue of Albanian NPM performance and achievements)[1]. The NPM activity report was presented to the member of the SPT.
  3. oPromoting a unified methodology in performing monitoring visits, including check-lists, follow up on CPT recommendations, previous recommendations set by monitors, etc.
    1. oSuch methodology had increased the preventive approach of the Monitoring Component.

 The capacity for analysis involves that ARCT staff is familiar with the software programs EpiData and SPSS, allowing ACRT independently to enter and analyse epidemiological human rights data collected in pre-trial detention centres and prisons. The data collected by ARCT now comprises data from more than 1800 interviews with detainees and prisoners. The dataset comprises information about a few weeks to more than 10 years. This allows for analysis of compliance with basic human rights in the criminal justice system, broken by institution and calendar year. The indicators for the functioning of the criminal justice system include:

  • Physical and psychological violence exposure during arrest, transportation and interrogation in the police stations,
  • Access to lawyer and medical services during detention
  • Time in detention before being presented before a judge
  • Violent treatment in the pre-trial detention and prison
  • Corruption during the whole course from arrest to imprisonment.

During the course of the OPCAT Campaign, this instrument was carefully scrutinized through several pilot tests, through an independent ethical review process and through a validation study, comparing the data with narrative interviews obtained from the same prisoners.

On ARCT's point of view the implementation of this operation was a success story bringing benefits to the people deprived of their liberty. The basic assumption was that a solid and effective monitoring mechanism increases pressure to the legislative, governmental and prison system, that the opening of the penitentiary institutions to the eyes of the public increases chances for human rights safeguards, that an empowered and capable civil society secures independence and professionalism of the monitoring mechanisms, that an informed and trained workforce of prison system increases chances for better performance of the system.

 ARCT has produced a good evidence that the above assumptions are functional: a newly established national preventive mechanism performed well, in a period of highly conflictual political situation for the institution of Ombudsman, in a good part of it through intensive cooperation and support given by civil society organisations; reliable and solid evidence on violations of human rights was produced and made public through local media and international/diplomatic channels resulting in persistent pressure towards government, as well as some improvements on the daily life of inmates; information and training on best practices in respect to international standards and instruments has been translated in a number of touchable and sustainable improvements on how services are offered to inmates, especially on the prison health sector.

 Monitoring prisons and OPCAT, human rights safeguards and better conditions in Albanian prisons, strong civil society and cooperation with NPM - all of them became part of the media and public awareness only in the last three years, most probably through the present reporting project. A good evidence for the above comes from the President of the country who acknowledging the work of NPM and ARCT through decorating the leadership of both organisations. The ARCT Director's Medal of Gratitude for his fight for human rights and justice for the victims of the communist regime in Albania.

Facts and figures

, ARCT has been contributing through publications as following:

  • 12 Numbers of the ARCT Journal “Human Rights and Mental Health” published quarterly,
  • First number 2009, 800 copies
  • Second number 2009, 800 copies
  • Third number 2009, 850 copies
  • First number 2010, 900 copies
  • Second number 2010, 700 copies
  • Third number 2010, 660 copies
  • Fourth number 2010, 660 copies
  • First number 2011, 900 copies
  • Second number 2011, 900 copies
  • Third number 2011, 900 copies
  • Fourth number 2011, 1000 copies
  • Fifth number 2011, 1000 copies
  • Monitoring places of detention and fight against impunity- first semi-annual report (2009), 350 copies
  • Monitoring places of detention and fight against impunity- second semi-annual report (2009), 380 copies
  • Confronting detention, third semi-annual report 2010, 350 copies
  • Mapping prisons, fourth semi-annual report 2010, 350 copies
  • Monitoring conditions of detention, fifth semi-annual report 2011, 400 copies
  • Prison conditions and basic rights, sixth semi-annual report 2011, 400 copies
  • ARCT Alternative Report 2009, in Albanian and in English, 600 and 400 copies each respectively.
  • ARCT Alternative Report 2010, Albanian and in English, 550 and 350 copies each respectively.
  • ARCT Alternative Report 2011, Albanian and in English, 550 and 300 copies each respectively.
  • ARCT Annual Report 2009, 500 copies
  • ARCT Annual Report 2010, 500 copies
  • ARCT Annual Report 2011, 500 copies
  • Equality before the law (jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court, domestic and international standards), 2009, 800 copies
  • Torture prevention and National Preventive Mechanism, 2009,   850 copies
  • Law, politics, media and civil society 2010, 800 copies
  • Protecting fundamental freedoms, 2010, 800 copies
  • Psychology of trauma and torture, 2011, 900 copies
  • “Phenomenology and problematics in the Albanian prisons” 2011, 1000 copies
  • “Prevention of violence and ill-treatments”- cases from monitoring the penitentiary system 2010, 900 copies
  • Prevention of violence and ill-treatments- Albanian legislation, 2011, 900 copies
  • 18 Bimonthly e-newsletters on torture;
  • 6 Semi-annual progress reports on Monitoring, published;
  • 3 ARCT Alternative Report, published respectively 3 in Albanian and 3 in English;
  • 3 ARCT Annual Report published;
  • 6 Reviews/books On OPCAT implementation and torture, published respectively:
  • 2 Reports/ as part of the Study on the Prevalence of Torture in Albania;
  • training modules and materials ( throughout the program)
  • papers and press releases (throughout the program)

 During preparation and the publication, ARCT has used all basic visibility elements such as the EU logo, and the disclaimer and project details, contact name, address, telephone, fax and e-mail in all the activities such as training seminars, publication of leaflets, journals and study, as well as the web site.