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6 - Ensuring compliance with decisions by international and regional human rights bodies: the case of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 October 2011

Koen De Feyter
Affiliation:
Universiteit Antwerpen, Belgium
Stephan Parmentier
Affiliation:
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
Christiane Timmerman
Affiliation:
Universiteit Antwerpen, Belgium
George Ulrich
Affiliation:
Riga Graduate School of Law
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Summary

Introduction

This chapter reflects broadly on the concept of local relevance of human rights in the context of deprivation of liberty, specifically imprisonment, and interrogates the extent to which the concept of local relevance is pertinent in developing prisoners' rights. In particular, this chapter focuses on the issue of compliance with the reporting of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). In that regard, it highlights existing barriers to ensuring compliance and seeks to suggest further potential compliance mechanisms. The chapter begins by contextualising the concept of local relevance within the framework of the international human rights machinery. In so doing, the chapter establishes some of the impediments to successfully appealing to human rights at the local level. It then turns to consider, from a theoretical perspective, some of the compounding difficulties which exist for those deprived of their liberty in making their appeals to human rights succeed. One specific barrier is highlighted. By employing Michel Foucault's critique of disciplinary society, the complicated power relations which govern deprivation of liberty are discussed. Custodial institutions present exceptional challenges and complexities to human rights campaigning at the local level. Prisons, for example, are ‘social fortresses’, characterised by physical and social segregation and, often, public indifference, factors which inevitably complicate the success of local appeals to human rights. The chapter then outlines the procedures and mechanisms of the international system for the protection of prisoners' rights before turning to focus on the work of the CPT and its capabilities in translating ‘the experience of those who suffer grave abuse at the local level into effective but sufficiently flexible global norms and action’. It turns, finally, to consider the potential of the CPT to secure compliance – to filter beyond the level of the state to become useful and relevant for those deprived of their liberty in affecting change.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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