Irish Penal Reform Trust

The relationship between civil society and the NPM: UK and Ireland

26th June 2020

[L-R: TOP: Professor Sir Malcolm Evans, Dr Marie Brasholt, Heydi Foster-Breslin BOTTOM: Helga Fastrup Ervik, John Wadham and Doireann Ansbro.]

IPRT and the Zahid Mubarek Trust hosted 'The relationship between civil society and the NPM: A webinar for UK and Irish civil society' on 26th June 2020, which, fittingly, also marked Inte rnational Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The webinar brought together international experts and local actors with a joint focus of sharing knowledge and practice on how to build positive relationships between civil society and National Preventative Mechanisms (NPMs) under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

This webinar was especially timely in Ireland as we have yet to ratify the OPCAT, having become signatories in 2007. Irish civil society is now met with the opportunity to learn from best practice and to fully engage with the ratification, designation, and implementation processes to ensure that the expertise of civil society is embedded (in some form) within any potential NPM function. We also welcomed the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) to give an overview of the Irish context, in non-prison settings.

The event focused on: the goals of the OPCAT; good practice for the relationship between civil society and NPMs; an NPM perspective on how this relationship works and the benefits for the NPM; and why civil society groups should partner with NPMs and the advantages for them.  

The event was Chaired by Professor Nick Hardwick, and heard the perspectives three international stakeholders:

  • Professor Sir Malcolm Evans (Chair of the UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture, SPT; University of Bristol) – SPT perspective
  • Helga Fastrup Ervik (Head of the NPM for the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Norway) – NPM perspective
  • Dr Marie Brasholt (Senior Medical Officer, Danish Institute against Torture, DIGNITY) – Civil society perspective

Following input from our international experts, we welcomed John Wadham (Independent Chair of the UK NPM) and Heydi Foster-Breslin (Commissioner, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission) to give local context on the prevailing situation in both the UK and Ireland.

Biographies for all speakers are available here.

This was an invite-only event, for those with a role in detention monitoring or civil society bodies who work with or advocate on behalf of people deprived of their liberty.

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.

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