Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma issued a rallying call to the government to ratify the Convention Against Torture as soon as practicable.
The call follows a meeting between the Ombudsman’s team and a delegation from the Convention Against Torture Initiative last Thursday.
The visiting delegation, headed by Danish Ambassador to the UN Carsten Staur, was in the country to discuss the benefits of Samoa ratifying the Convention Against Torture (C.A.T) and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol.
They met with the Ombudsman and other key stakeholders.
The Convention Against Torture stands apart from other international human rights treaties as it contains practical steps to prevent torture and ill-treatment or punishment and these can be adapted to the national context.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention requires the establishment of a ‘National Preventive Mechanism’ responsible for monitoring all places of detention to ensure the principles of CAT are being met.
During the meeting the Ombudsman expressed support for ratification, highlighting efforts already made by his office to ensure a smooth process and how the Convention could strengthen Samoan society.
“Regardless of whether torture or ill-treatment occurs in Samoa right now, ratification of the C.A.T can strengthen our laws, policies and practices within places of detention and improve effective law enforcement.
“The principles of feavaa’i (mutual respect) and fepiopuia’i (mutual protection) are central to our society. The CAT and its Optional Protocol provide a framework which we can use in our national context to ensure these principles are met when people are in the care of our law enforcement officers and help to protect against abuse of power in the future.”
The Ombudsman continued, “since the establishment of my office as the National Human Rights Institution we have been building our capacity to monitor places of detention to the standard required by the C.A.T Optional Protocol.
“We now have the necessary knowledge and experience to undertake this role if called upon to act as the National Preventive Mechanism for Samoa. We would endeavor to work in partnership with our law enforcement agencies to ensure our places of detention meet our cultural protocols to treat people with dignity and respect at all times.”
In conclusion, the Ombudsman asked the government to ratify the Convention as soon as practicable.
“Samoa is currently leading the way in many respects with regards to human rights initiatives in the region, being the only Small Island State in the region to have an accredited National Human Rights Institution and the most advanced National Mechanism for Human Rights Implementation and Reporting,” he said.
“With the double ratification of C.A.T and the O.P.C.A.T the government can once again lead the way in demonstrating our firm commitment to the protection of dignity, respect and freedoms within the Pacific context.”