UN torture prevention experts in PH to assess prisons, hospitals
A group of torture prevention experts from the United Nations has arrived in the Philippines for a second visit from Dec. 3 to Dec. 14 as part of efforts to advise and assist the country in complying with its international commitments to prevent torture and other cruel or inhumane punishments.
In a statement, delegates from the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) said they would be looking at whether the Philippines has implemented their recommendations from their initial visit in 2015.
“We will also assess the treatment of people deprived of their liberty (PDL), including detainees in prisons, police stations and other detention facilities, as well as patients in psychiatric hospitals, and examine the existing protection measures against torture and ill-treatment,” said Victor Zaharia, head of delegation.
The Philippines ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture in 2012. However, it is one of the state parties that are “significantly overdue in establishing a national mechanism for torture prevention under the Optional Protocol.”
Under its mandate, the UN SPT visits state parties conducts unannounced visits to all detention facilities, and conducts confidential interviews with PDLs. They will then present their confidential preliminary observations to the government.
Visit safe houses
Rights groups, meanwhile, urged the UN SPT to investigate secret detention facilities where disappeared or abducted individuals might be held in custody.
In a submission to the UN SPT ahead of the visit, rights group Karapatan accused the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict of using military safe houses as secret detention facilities, as well as coercing individuals under their custody to execute perjured testimonies or affidavits.
Among the cases of abduction the group has documented are those of environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano; union organizers April Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dayoha; and indigenous people’s rights activist Steve Tauli.
All of them had been reportedly abducted and brought to secret detention facilities which are illegal under the Anti-Torture Act and the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act.