Uruguay is advancing in the fight against torture and cruel treatment, but much remains to be done (in Spanish)

Uruguay is advancing in the fight against torture and cruel treatment, but much remains to be done (in Spanish)

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez pointed out on Thursday that several initiatives of the Government of Uruguay “positively contribute to improving the conditions of detention and of the prison system in general.” However, he stressed that “there are still several problems that prevent the general conditions of detention from being satisfactory, and in some extreme cases these are inhumane.”

“The general conditions of health and hygiene in some of the centers visited, such the lack of access to clean water, fresh air and deteriorating infrastructure, and in particular, the present high level of overcrowding in prisons, which in some extreme cases reaches critical levels, are a cause for concern”, Mr. Mendez said after concluding a four-day follow-up visit.

“The conditions of detention in some centers are still unacceptable, such as critical overcrowding, prolonged confinement, a total absence of technical work and a lack of educational activities”, said the expert while recommending the closure of certain areas of some detention centers where these situations are present.

Mr. Méndez noted that “while reforms in the area of ​​adult prisoners are visible and tangible and are being performed at a steady pace, reforms are not moving at a satisfactory pace in the application of judicial measures of deprivation of liberty of children and adolescents”. He also highlighted the lack of comprehensive plans aimed at the rehabilitation and reemployment of adults, children and adolescents.

Regarding legislation, the expert noted that the Uruguayan criminal procedure presents problems, especially regarding the use of preventive detention, which is used as the rule and not the exception. In his opinion, “this is alarming as it worsens the conditions of detention that are already facing problems, including overcrowding”.

In this sense, he urged the Uruguayan authorities to promote the legislative proposal amending the Code of Criminal Procedure which is in Parliament to complement other institutional and infrastructure measures undertaken by the Government.

Moreover, the Special Rapporteur commended the establishment of specialized institutions such as the Instituto Nacional de Rehabilitación and the Instituto de Responsabilidad Penal, and the operation of preventive mechanisms as the Comisionado Parlamentario. In particular, he highlighted the creation of the Institución Nacional de Derechos Humanos, which complies with the Paris Principles and will play a key role as a National Preventive Mechanism against torture.

“It was very positive to see that both public authorities and civil society have taken the recommendations made by my predecessor in 2009 as a roadmap and a reference to address substantive reforms in various aspects of policies to prevent and investigate torture and cruel treatment in the country”, he said.

Additionally, Mr. Mendez noted “the positive attitude of the Uruguayan Government for the invitation to do a follow-up visit, which is a good practice that should be encouraged in the international community.”

The Special Rapporteur, who visited Uruguay at the invitation of the Government, met in Montevideo with the main ministries, parliamentary committees, representatives of the judiciary, independent bodies, international organizations and civil society, and visited several detention centers such as the prisión de Libertad, COMCAR, Punta Rieles, Cárcel de Mujeres, Centro Puertas, CEPRILI, Centro de Medidas Cautelares, CMC, and Escuela Berro.

The Special Rapporteur’s findings will be reflected in an addendum to the main report on the follow-up, which will be presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2013.

(*) Read the preliminary conclusions of the mission: http://www.ohchr.org/documents/issues/SRTorture/conclusionesvisittoUruguay.docx

John E. Mendez (Argentina) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment on November 1, 2010. The office is independent from any government and he serves in his individual capacity. Mr. Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights, and has a long and distinguished record of advocacy throughout the Americas. He is currently Professor of Law at the American University – Washington College of Law and Co-Chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association. Mr. Mendez has previously served as the President of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) until 2009, and was the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide to the UN General Secretary from 2004 to 2007. He was also Special Advisor on crime prevention to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court between 2009 and 2010. For more information on the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/torture/rapporteur/index.htm

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