Torture prevention works!

Which measures – if any – are effective in reducing the risk of torture and other ill-treatment? This is the overall question of the book “Does Torture Prevention Work?”, published in 2016. The book is the result of a four-year research project, commissioned by the APT, and carried out independently under the lead of researchers from Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom.

The APT has worked tirelessly for almost 40 years to realise the idea of a global system to prevent torture. We have come a long way, with the establishment of national, regional and international mechanisms for monitoring of places of detention. To this day, more than 80 States have now joined the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT), creating a global system for the prevention of torture.

But how do we know that these monitoring bodies are effective? And what are the other measures that contribute to reducing the risk of torture and ill-treatment? In 2011, we decided that it was time to address the question: Does torture prevention work?

In this video, Dr Richard Carver, Senior Lecturer in Human Rights and Governance and Dr Lisa Handley, Visiting Research Academic, both at Oxford Brookes University, discuss the main findings and some of the methodological issues they faced in carrying out the research.

Yes, it does!

By commissioning this independent research, we aimed at making available well researched evidence on the effectiveness of torture prevention measures.

We now know that prevention measures do work, although some are much more effective than others. Most important of all are the safeguards that should be applied in the first hours and days after a person is taken into custody. Notification of family and access to an independent lawyer and doctor has a significant impact in reducing torture. The consistent investigation of torture and effective prosecution of torturers and the creation of independent monitoring bodies are also key in reducing torture.

The results of the research are of great relevance for governments, National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs), civil society organisations, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), the UN and regional torture prevention bodies, and should help inform more effective strategies and polices against torture.

Publication in July 2016

The book was published by Liverpool University Press in July 2016. The APT has published a short paper on its reading and analysis of the implications of the research.

It is the first systematic analysis of the effectiveness of torture prevention. Assisted by a team of country researchers, Richard Carver and Lisa Handley carried out primary research in 16 countries, looking at torture and prevention mechanisms over a 30-year period (1984-2014). Data was analysed using a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques.

Of the 16 countries studied (including Argentina and Norway), 14 were the object of specific country chapters providing a detailed and nuanced account of the incidence of torture in these countries between 1985 and 2014:

These summaries have been provided by the individual researchers.

What was APT's role in the research project? Watch Dr Richard Carver explain why it was important to do the research independently from the organisation.