New York, 25 September 2003 Press release

Ferrero-Waldner signs Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture in New York


New York, 25 September 2003 - In New York today Minister for Foreign Affairs Benita Ferrero-Waldner signed the Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture on behalf of Austria at a special "Treaty Event" organized by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan within the framework of the UN General Assembly. To date the Protocol had been signed by the EU states of Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Italy, as well as Costa Rica, Argentina and Senegal. Besides Austria, they were followed today by Finland, New Zealand and Brazil.

The Protocol provides for the establishment of a system of regular visits by international experts to all places of detention, with the aim of preventing torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Its conclusion after more than ten years of difficult negotiations was a priority EU concern to which Austria gave her full support.

The central element of the Protocol is the setting up of a national preventive mechanism. With the Advisory Board on Human Rights established at the Federal Ministry of the Interior to monitor the activities of the security forces with respect to the protection of human rights, Austria has already created a ground-breaking national instrument for the prevention of torture for one of the Protocol's four main areas of application.

Besides the security forces, other institutions constituting possible places of detention in Austria include prisons, psychiatric hospitals and the Federal Army, for which appropriate regulations must also be established.

Today's signing of the Protocol is an expression of the great importance attached to the fight against torture within the framework of Austria's international human rights policy.