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Research into torture prevention by geographers at Oxford Brookes University focused on the protection of people in police custody, and has challenged previous assumptions about the most effective way to prevent torture.



International and regional torture prevention bodies have previously emphasised the use of monitoring and complaint mechanisms along with investigation and prosecution, but not detention safeguards.



The study looked at the impact of torture prevention mechanisms across 16 countries over a 30-year period (1985–2014). The study found that legal reforms on their own had very little impact. However, when legal obligations were translated into practice, some of the preventive measures worked. The most important example of this was that safeguards for people in their first hours in police custody had a considerable impact on reducing the incidence of torture.



The research has influenced the UK National Preventive Mechanism, and the researchers have undertaken independent assessment of its work.

Both the UN Committee Against Torture and the Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture (SPT) have drawn on the research in their reports.

In Uruguay, the research findings are used as the basis for monitoring police custody, as a direct result of the SPT’s engagement with the research.

Several leading NGOs working against torture have changed their strategic priorities as a direct result of the research.

The publication of the research was a direct catalyst for the formation of the UK Torture Prohibition Network: a group of scholars, activists, and NGOs working in the field of torture prevention.


More information 

Institution: Oxford Brookes University 

Researchers: Dr Richard Carver

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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Effective torture prevention? Detention safeguards and the reduction of torture. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>