September 1, 2014 Leave a comment
Day 1 of the WJP Symposium on the Prevention of Torture
“They covered our heads with plastic bags and strangled us with seatbelts.”- Torture survivor, speaking at the opening session of the Symposium
Day 1 (28 August 2014) of the Wits Justice Project symposium kicked off with official welcome from the Wits Council chairperson, Dr Randall Carolissen. He talked about proud tradition that Wits University has in upholding human rights and fighting injustice. He pointed to the work of the Wits Justice Project as being one of the flag-ship projects of the University, winning the Vice-Chancellor’s Academic Citizenship team award in 2013.
Representing the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services was Advocate John Makhubele – the head of the international relations unit of the Ministry. He reiterated the commitment of the South African government to preventing torture and to upholding its international obligations, including the ratification of the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) in the near future.
Keynote speaker, Prof Malcolm Evans, chair of the UN Committee on the Prevention of Torture, introduced the global human rights framework on the prevention of torture. He talked about the importance of OPCAT and shared examples of its ratification and implementation in other countries. He advised that the time to start preparing for the consequences of the ratification of OPCAT, and the consequent creation of a national preventative mechanism (NPM) is as soon as possible. He said that the setting up of an NPM that suits the particular context in South Africa would take time and need consultation and reflection.
Prof Evans reminded the participants of the resource which had been drafted in South Africa -the Robben Island Guidelines – which includes guidance on the prevention of torture and other forms of ill treatment through visiting mechanisms and oversight.
Throughout the week we will be adding new blogs on the topics covered during the Symposium. In the meanwhile, here are some of the important tweets (from our own account and from those of the participants) using the hashtag “PreventTorture“.