Prevention of torture in detention
More than 10 million people are currently living behind bars around the world. Even more live behind locked doors in institutions such as police stations, psychiatric hospitals, military detention centers, asylum centers and (partly) refugee camps. It is often behind locked doors, out of sight, that torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment takes place. DIGNITY monitors the facilities, documents the abuse, and develops new interventions that can prevent and combat torture in detention.
Prevention in Denmark
We monitor Danish prisons, detention centers, closed psychiatric wards and centers in the asylum system. This is done in cooperation with the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.
The purpose of the visits is to ensure that the detainees are not subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. During the visits we focus on the use of force, disciplinary measures, solitary confinement and relations between prisoners and staff. The visits also have a preventive effect. They ensure that inmates and detainees know their rights and that staff are aware of any problems.
The Danish monitoring mechanism was established in 2009 under the Optional Protocol to the UN Torture Convention: OPCAT.
We cooperate with local partners around the world to prevent and combat torture in detention and other places where people are deprived of their liberty. We cooperate with civil society organizations, state actors and research institutions. An important part of the work is to build up the capacity of civil society to keep their states accountable in accordance with national and international legislation and best practices in torture prevention.
Examples of interventions include the establishment and teaching of independent prison monitoring teams, training in medical and legal documentation of torture, criminal justice reform, coalition building, judicial training in international conventions and human rights standards, dissemination of knowledge about effective and legal investigation, and prison research.
Countries where we work to improve the conditions for detainees:
Denmark, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel/Palestine, Egypt, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Myanmar & the Philippines.
Types of partners
Civil society organizations, incl. human rights defenders
National Human Rights Institutions
Universities and other research institutions and networks
National preventive mechanisms
Ministries of Justice
We work in accordance with overall Danish strategies and policies on development, including Denmark's developmental and humanitarian strategy: World 2030, and the Danish-Arab Partnership Program (DAPP). We are also actively working on meeting global goals such as the UN's 17 Sustainability Goals, including sustainability goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions.
DIGNITY also helps to identify, develop and test several internationally recognized standards and guidelines for torture and detention, including:
DIGNITY and partners also produce own studies, manuals and guidelines that help to further the work of preventing and combating torture in detention.
DIGNITY's researchers have, among other things, been at the forefront of researching and disseminating knowledge about the research area "Prisons in the Global South" with several research articles and network-building.
Examples of these publications can be found here:
- The role of the justice sector in combating torture in Tunisia: A guide for judges and prosecutors
- Documenting torture while providing legal aid: A handbook for lawyers
- DIGNITY Publication Series on Torture and Organised Violence | No. 7: Conditions for women in detention – Needs, vulnerabilities and good practices
- ‘Prisons in Africa’ in ‘Handbook of Prisons’, Routledge Publishing