The Portuguese Ombudsman marks the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The search for information can sometimes be the reason for some behaviors that disrespect human rights: to get a confession of a crime, to avoid an imminent attack or just for simple but real fear. Fear of an enemy without face: terrorism. Our global community does not accept, in any circumstances, the use of torture. This is a universal prohibition, which must be assimilated and defended by everyone. Nonetheless, in the past and present, on the other side of the world or in our street, we frequently come in contact with life stories that reveal inhuman treatment. Stories that we all wish were rare.
To achieve this purpose, States who signed the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and its Optional Protocol had an obligation to create a National Preventive Mechanism, an autonomous body whose mission is the promotion and defense of the rights of persons deprived of liberty. In Portugal, this function was assigned to the Ombudsman.
The National Preventive Mechanism visits places of detention such as prisons, detention cells in courts and in the police facilities, educational centres, temporary installation centres for foreigners and psychiatric hospitals. These visits are made without previous notice; so there is not the opportunity to hide or mask the real conditions in which persons deprived of their liberty are living. Planned in advance, visits are projected to verify, among others, the living conditions (as lighting, ventilation, use of the hygienic-sanitary equipment and accesses for persons with reduced or limited mobility), the quantity and quality of food, the full compliance for the rights of persons deprived of liberty (as the right to contact with a lawyer and the right to medical care) and the existence of appropriate and complete archives.
My commitment towards the promotion and protection of fundamental rights is the beacon of my actions. The celebration of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is the motto for a brief presentation of the National Preventive Mechanism’s activities and to reaffirm that the Ombudsman is fully alert against the practice of torture, upholding, all the time and in every circumstances, the greatest values of our community: human rights.