HomeLibraryRound table “Independent public oversight of law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system”

Round table “Independent public oversight of law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system”

June 03, 2006 15:09

Moscow, July 3-4, 2006
Human Rights Section

Round table "Independent public oversight of law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system"
Statement to the participants of the G8 Forum
Reaffirming that, democracies cannot function effectively without the participation of the public in governance,
Recalling that fundamental democratic institutions such as free and fair elections only serve this purpose during the limited periods of election campaigns themselves,
Recalling that independent public oversight mechanisms (such as non-governmental organizations, citizens committees, national human rights institutions, and parliamentary human rights commissions etc) provide the state authorities with an opportunity to take into consideration public opinion at a stage when socially important decisions are being made and, in so doing, bolsters the legitimacy of such decisions and raises public confidence in the state institutions,
Convinced that independent public oversight helps to maintain a high level of observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
We affirm that independent public oversight of state authorities has become an essential element of democracy, which ensures civic participation in governance in between election periods and ensures public security, social stability and the stability of state institutions as well as the sustainable democratic development of countries.
We recognize that, while independent public oversight can be an effective means to prevent human rights violations, the effectiveness of such measures will only be ensured if state authorities implement other vital human rights oriented measures to prevent such abuses.
We reaffirm that, while law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system have at their disposal exceptional powers to restrict individual rights and freedoms, they are to a much lesser extent subjected to other forms of control and, as a result, the need to develop independent public oversight of these entities is of the highest priority,
Moreover, we envision a world where all public officials see their primary responsibility to protect the human rights of all citizens and to serve society,
As participants of the G8 Civil Forum we therefore call upon the G8 states to take all relevant measures to develop in their countries mechanisms of effective oversight, particularly of law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system, and to actively assist establish mechanisms of effective independent public oversight in other countries as well as at the international level. In establishing systems of independent public oversight the state authorities should pay particular attention to minors and other vulnerable groups
In particular we recommend that G8 states:
1. Guarantee at the legislative and practical level the conditions for civil society mechanisms, including non-governmental organizations, to effectively exercise independent public oversight over places of detention on a non discriminatory basis. Such organizations are ideally capable of ensuring the necessary high levels of professionalism, independence and objectivity for such a function;
2. Guarantee at the legislative and practical level unimpeded access of independent public monitoring bodies to detainees and prisoners, particularly in view of the vulnerability of such persons, who should be afforded special guarantees of protection. Moreover, such bodies should be provided with the opportunity to visit places of detention without prior notice, to independently determine where they visit with the facility, to meet with detainees in private and to review all relevant documents;
3. Enhance the openness and transparency of law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system. In particular, to oblige law-enforcement bodies and penitentiary institutions to deliver regularly (but not less then once a year) reports on their activities. These reports shall receive as much publicity as possible.
3a. The authorities should not tolerate under any circumstances the establishment and functioning of secret places of detention and they should prohibit the use of any instructions pertaining to the regulation of places of detention which are in contravention of human rights and fundamental freedoms;
4. Capitalize on the best practices and progressive experiences of G8 states and other countries with regard to models of independent public oversight of law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system and to develop new effective models of independent public oversight, including by non-governmental organizations;
5. Create at the legislative and practical level procedures which take into account the findings and conclusions of independent public oversight mechanisms in order to improve the work of law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system. The participation of human rights organizations, professional associations and other representatives of civil society should be ensured in the above mentioned procedures;
6. Use the results of independent public oversight of places of detention to evaluate the quality of work of law enforcement and penitentiary bodies and to establish and develop mechanisms which involve the general public in this process;
7. Develop programs of inter-governmental cooperation aimed at developing mechanisms of public oversight and improving law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system, including by supporting educational and training activities for such officials as well as by establishing programs for members of non-governmental organizations, which should include references to international human rights documents. The G8 states should also promote the dissemination of good examples of effective cooperation between civil society and law enforcement and penitentiary institutions;
8. Intensify international cooperation in the field of the development of public oversight of law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system, in particular by means of ratifying the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, which creates a complementary national and international system of independent oversight of places of detention;
9. Guarantee free access to all places of detention throughout their territories to the UN special rapporteurs and other international mechanisms and to cooperation with such bodies on the basis of openness. Any place of detention under the jurisdiction of a given state should be accessible and open to independent public scrutiny, irrespective of the location of the facility.
In addition to those detention facilities, referred to above, it is essential that other closed institutions where persons are held on an involuntary basis (such as psychiatric hospitals, social care homes for persons with mental and physical disabilities, orphanages and military detention facilities etc) are also subjected to independent public scrutiny.