Prevention of torture in the OSCE region

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) addresses politico-military, economic, environmental and human aspects of security. Promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are key parts of the OSCE's work, and the organisation monitors the human rights situation in its 57 participating States.

In 2014, Switzerland has put torture prevention back at the top of the OSCE agenda. As part of the overall priority of “improving people’s lives”, the Swiss Chairpersonship decided to put special emphasis on the prevention of torture. Torture prevention was addressed at a high-level event, a Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting, of States in Vienna 10-11 April 2014. Torture prevention was also addressed through a series of regional civil society workshops, in Belgrade (February 2014), Vienna, Dushanbe, Tbilisi (September 2014) and at a final parallel conference in Basel, in December 2014.

The last time torture prevention was placed this high up on the OSCE’s political agenda was in 2003, during the Chairpersonship-in-Office of the Netherlands. It was then emphasised that the use of torture remains a serious concern in many OSCE participating States, despite their commitments to take effective measures to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

The APT has actively engaged with the OSCE over the years and repeatedly called on the organisation to intensify its torture prevention work. We believe that the OSCE, with its field presence and mandates within politico-military security and human rights, has an important role to play in facilitating cooperation between States, national torture prevention actors and regional bodies such as the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).

All OSCE participating States have ratified the UN Convention against Torture, but 16 States have not yet ratified its Optional Protocol, the OPCAT.

More information

2016 Annual Meeting of National Preventive Mechanisms from the OSCE region: Outcome report

National Preventive Mechanisms' Recommendations to the OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting, 10-11 April 2014

APT working paper: Preventing torture in the OSCE region (PDF)

OSCE: Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Prevention of Torture

Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs: Switzerland chairs the OSCE in 2014

News on torture prevention and the OSCE

Watch an interview with Mark Thomson, APT Secretary General, on what OSCE States should do to address torture and ill-treatment in the region.

«Es gibt keinen Staat, in dem Folter nicht ein Thema wäre» Interview with APT's Eva Csergö (SRF 4 News, 5 December 2014)

Interview with Swiss president Didier Burkhalter on the Swiss hopes to pass a ministerial decision on the prevention of torture (Le journal du matin, RTS, 3 December 2014)

Co-ordinated efforts necessary to eradicate the practice of torture, say participants at OSCE meeting

Swiss Chairmanship of the OSCE: Creating a Security Community for the Benefit of Everyone. Speech by Mr. Didier Burkhalter, Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE and President of the Swiss Confederation before the United Nations Security Council

Belgrade: Conference on prevention of torture and hate speech

Can Switzerland put torture back on top of the OSCE agenda?

From pledges to action on torture prevention in the OSCE. Presentation of Mark Thomson, Secretary General, APT, at the OSCE Human Dimension Committee, Vienna, 9 May 2012

For journalists

Press release 2 December 2014: Swiss OSCE presidency advances the prevention of torture (in English and French)

Press release 7 April 2014: Switzerland puts torture prevention at the top of OSCE’s agenda (in English, French and German)

Media briefing: Key facts about torture prevention in the OSCE region (in English, French and German. Updated December 2014)

More information for journalists