The rule of law and accountability for human rights violations are critical for prevention of violations, conflict, and violence, the building and sustaining of peace, and achievement of inclusive development. Countries in the region face challenges in meeting these standards. There are persistent gaps in access to justice, especially for those subjected to discrimination, while much still needs to be done to ensure the justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights. Many public decision-making processes remain opaque and non-participatory, hindering people’s ability to demand and secure accountability. Much still needs to be done to ensure that economic, social and cultural rights can be legally claimed and adjudicated. Corruption is a key risk across the board, including in judiciary and law enforcement institutions. The need for vigilance is heightened further by the decision of some States to combat insecurity or terrorism by measures that violate human rights and challenge international standards, including the absolute prohibition of torture and restrictions on use of the death penalty.
Over the period 2019-2020, the Regional Office will advocate for administration of justice systems to comply with international human rights law, including through monitoring, reporting, capacity building and advocacy. It we will seek to strengthen institutional policy frameworks and accountability mechanisms to increase human rights protection in the context of law enforcement, specifically with regard to deprivation of liberty, use of force, and prevention of torture and ill-treatment.
The Regional Office is specifically interested in tackling the definition of torture in criminal codes in the region and relevant legislation to review its compliance with international human rights norms, in particular the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This would be followed by strategic advocacy and partnerships to promote fair trial standards and better detention conditions.
The Regional Office will also look into prevention and redress mechanisms of NHRIs in the region through a review of their protection mandate implemented mainly via the complaints handling processes and the fact finding missions.