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Welcoming remarks by Ambassador René Rosager Dinesen at the international online conference on "Torture prevention in the criminal justice system"

Welcoming remarks as delivered by Ambassador René Rosager Dinesen, Permanent Representative of Denmark to the OSCE, at the international online conference on “Torture prevention in the criminal justice system: The role and responsibilities of police and other law enforcement” on 2 June.

Dear colleagues. Dear valued members of civil society. Ladies and Gentlemen.

On behalf of Denmark and Switzerland, I have the great pleasure of welcoming you to the international online conference on “Torture Prevention in the Criminal Justice System: The role and responsibilities of police and other law enforcement”, which is organised with the support of the 2021 Swedish OSCE Chairpersonship and ODIHR. 

Today, we will engage in a vital conversation on how to speed up the implementation of our shared OSCE commitments on the prevention and eradication of torture and other ill-treatment. But before the conversation begins, it is important to remember why we are here.

Two years ago, Denmark, Switzerland and Austria in cooperation with the 2019 Slovak OSCE chairpersonship and ODIHR hosted an international conference on “Effective Multilateralism in the Fight Against Torture”. At the conference, participants from across the OSCE region provided a wide range of recommendations to OSCE participating States on how to improve their efforts in the fight against torture.

One advice, which participants repeated throughout the conference, was to reaffirm and strengthen the OSCE commitments on the prevention and eradication of torture and other ill-treatment. In this context, we are very pleased that we managed to deliver on this recommendation at the OSCE Ministerial Council in Tirana last year, where the participating States adopted the organisation’s first comprehensive decision on this important topic.

Another recommendation from the 2019 conference was to address torture prevention as a cross-dimensional issue, making use of the OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security as a basis for bringing together all relevant stakeholders – including human right defenders, international organisations and law enforcement officials – in a constructive dialogue on how to move forward. This is exactly what we are trying to do today by putting a spot on the important role and responsibilities of police and other law enforcement in the fight against torture.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Manfred Nowak, once observed that while police and other law enforcement officials have most often been in the human rights spotlight because of their part on committing grave violations, we must not forget that they are – or they certainly can be – amongst the most important defenders of human rights in any state.

Whether they are in a position to fulfil this role depends on a wide range of factors, which we will discuss in further detail later today.
What is, nevertheless, evident is that the long-term goal of building, nourishing and sustaining an entrenched culture of human rights requires nothing less than a comprehensive transformation of the institutions at risk of perpetrating violations. A transformation, which is crucial for building the population’s trust in these institutions as custodians of human rights.

The Danish-led UN Human Rights Council Resolution 46/27, adopted in March this year, focused exactly on this issue: The roles and responsibilities of police and other law enforcement officials in combatting torture and other ill-treatment. At the same time, the adoption of the landmark OSCE Ministerial Council decision on the Prevention and Eradication of Torture and other ill-treatment in December last year commits OSCE participating States to incorporate education and information regarding the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment in the training of law enforcement personnel.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The prohibition of torture is absolute, and the use of torture has been condemned by the international community numerous times. Respect for human dignity and human rights are also codified in the core of the OSCE’s founding documents. But all of those words and documents mean nothing without action. We must increase our efforts in order to make torture a matter of the past.

Before I conclude, I would like to thank the Swedish OSCE chairpersonship and ODIHR for their valuable support in organising this event. ODIHR’s toolbox in the fight against torture and other ill-treatment is multifaceted and efficient, and we are very pleased to have the Director of ODIHR, Mr. Matteo Meccaci with us today to share a few introductory remarks. I would also like to thank our key-note speaker, Police Superintendent Asbjørn Rachlew, and our excellent expert panellists for being with us today.

I am very much looking forward to the fruitful discussions and hopefully multiple new recommendations from the participants on how to redouble our work in the fight against torture.

Thank you.