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Commonwealth event helps to strengthen Caribbean anti-torture commitments

17 December 2020

Commonwealth human rights experts held an anti-torture workshop for senior government officials from the Caribbean.

The three-day virtual event was hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Human Rights Unit in partnership with non-governmental organisations the Convention Against Torture Initiative and Redress.

A key objective of the workshop was to share regional good practices and success stories, as well as challenges, in the ratification or accession of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

It also discussed workable strategies to constructing effective legislative and institutional prevention frameworks.

Human rights

The over-arching goal was to strengthen state capacities and consolidate regional anti-torture human rights culture.

Dr Tawanda Hondora, acting head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said: “Torture is an egregious human rights violation and is, rightly, non-derogable.”

He asserted that the Caribbean region is comprised of stable democracies committed to human rights and the rule of law.

At the same time, like countries in other regions, there remain challenges in terms of delivering good governance and tackling societal violence, as well as incidents of abuses of power and corruption by public authorities.

Rule of law

The workshop introduced to the participants the substantive provisions of UNCAT, the principles, methodologies, strategies and techniques behind cabinet submissions for anti-torture legislation, the drafting of the bill and reporting to the UN Committee against Torture.

Antigua and Barmuda, Jamaica, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia, the Bahamas and Guyana were among the countries represented at the workshop.

Seven of the 12 Commonwealth Caribbean states are party to UNCAT, with the Bahamas, Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis being the newest parties.