Who we are

The Association for the Prevention of Torture was founded in 1977 by the Swiss banker and lawyer Jean-Jacques Gautier. Our work is built on the insight that torture and forms of ill-treatment happens behind closed doors, out of public view. We therefore promote transparency in all places where people are deprived of liberty.

Torture is one of the most serious violations of a person’s fundamental rights. It destroys their dignity, body and mind and has far-reaching effects on their family and community.

Jean-Jacques Gautier firmly believed that it would be possible to prevent torture through a worldwide system of unannounced visits by external actors to places of detention. This visionary idea has had a profound impact on the fight against torture in the world. The APT has been at the origin of the main regional and international treaties on the prevention of torture, notably the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture.

In recent years, the concept of torture prevention has gained ground all over the world. Some 80 States have already joined the OPCAT system and agreed to open up their prisons, police stations and other places of detention to outside scrutiny.

However, in spite of some positive developments and its absolute prohibition under international law, torture is still widespread. Police violence, prison overcrowding, inhuman conditions in immigration detention centres and other violations are common in all parts of the world.

No State is immune from torture and ill-treatment.