Lebanese Re-Elected to Anti-Torture Committee

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Our job is to visit places of detention and prisons in the states that have signed the Convention, without prior permission, to check whether or not they are respecting it. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

By: Abdel Kafi al-Samad

Published Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In 2007, the UN set up an international body to monitor the implementation of its Convention Against Torture (CAT). This group, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), visits signatory countries without advance notice to determine if they’re respecting the convention.

Suzanne Jabbour, based out of Tripoli, was first elected to the SPT in 2007, and is now set to serve another four years. Recently, she came second in polling for membership of the 25-member expert body in 2012, winning 54 out of a possible 67 votes.

As soon as the result was announced, Lebanon’s representative to the UN in Geneva, Najla Asaker, phoned Jabbour to congratulate her. “You’ve made Lebanon proud,” the diplomat told her. “You’ve held our heads up high.”

In her 7th floor office in Tripoli, Jabbour explained that members of the SPT need experience inspecting detention centers and prisons. Furthermore, they must be nominated by their countries’ government (her name was put forward by the foreign ministry). Currently Jabbour works as director of the Restart Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence.

“Our job is to visit places of detention and prisons in the states that have signed the Convention, without prior permission, to check whether or not they are respecting [it],” she said.

The SPT seeks to cooperate with signatory states to improve conditions for detainees and prisoners by providing them with expertise when needed. Its country reports are therefore kept confidential unless the state concerned refuses to cooperate.

Implementation of the Optional Protocol of the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) is carried out by three main parties: the signatory states, the SPT, and the so-called National Preventive Mechanisms in the individual countries. These are independent authorities that monitor the detainee conditions around the world and report annually to the SPT.

Lebanon has yet to set up its National Preventive Mechanism. “Draft legislation providing for the formation of such an authority has been passed by parliamentary committees,” Jabbour noted, but a decision from the parliament’s General Council is still needed.

“Lebanon’s membership in the SPT may have give the world a good impression of the country, but it still has to make more effort in this regard,” she said.

“We feel the state has been taking serious steps,” she added. The justice ministry is hosting a workshop on 15 February aimed at developing a national plan for complying with the recommendations of the SPT.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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