Ill-treatment and institutional violence remain widespread in Latin America, with a number of structural practices affecting detainees’ rights and dignity, in particular overcrowding, deficient infrastructures of detention facilities, inadequate medical attention and educational services, over-use of pre-trial detention and excessive use of police force during demonstrations and upon arrest. Taking into consideration these challenges, a number of States have started to engage in reforming their practices and detention systems, as well as establishing mechanisms of control and oversight.

Our priorities in the region are threefold:

  • Increasing effective oversight through the establishment of effective and independent National and Local Preventive Mechanisms;
  • Changing detention practices, in particular through detention safeguards in the first hours of custody; and
  • Provoking public debate on torture prevention.

The APT has been active in the region since the 1980s and opened its first regional office in Panama in 2010. At that time, only two of the region’s States parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) had functioning National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs). Seven years later, 11 States have a functioning NPM and another three have designated theirs. Most of Latin American States benefited from APT’s support and expert advice, in particular Brazil where the APT has a National Representative since 2015.

Among others, we work in close collaboration with our national and regional partners, providing technical and practical advice, advocating at the highest levels for the implementation of effective preventive measures, and training civil society organisations, authorities, judges and prosecutors.

“APT’s work has really been outstanding because it managed to put all the different actors at the same table and to agree on issues that are very complex.” Maria Luis Romero, Minister of Justice of Panama (2017)

Examples of our work in the Americas region:

Regional: Caribbean and Latin American States meet on torture prohibition

Brazil: Training judges on how custody hearings can effectively prevent torture and ill-treatment

Paraguay: Working towards change with the National Preventive Mechanism