Research Handbook on the International Penal System
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Research Handbook on the International Penal System

Edited by Róisín Mulgrew and Denis Abels

Drawing on the expertise and experience of contributors from a wide range of academic, professional and judicial backgrounds, this handbook critically analyses the laws, policies and practices that govern detention, punishment and the enforcement of sentences in the international criminal justice context. Comprehensive and innovative, it also explores broader normative questions related to international punishment and makes recommendations for the international penal system’s development.
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Chapter 14: Oversight of international imprisonment: the Committee for the Prevention of Torture

Sonja Snacken and Nik Kiefer


This chapter looks into the tripartite relationship between international courts, enforcing States and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) as monitoring body. It then analyses the main characteristics of the CPT’s monitoring of international imprisonment in Europe. The confidential reports on visits to international prisoners have not been published yet. We hence attempt to assess the possible effectiveness of CPT monitoring in this context through criteria that have been developed outside the international penal system, i.e. its capability (competences and resources) and direct and indirect effects. As is the case nationally, contemporary international society has armed itself against wrongdoers who violate its rules by the creation of an international criminal justice system. Its aim is to combat impunity for the worst crimes known to man by prosecuting and assessing the guilt of suspects and, where found guilty, to sentence and mete out punishment. The logical conclusion of the international criminal justice process, which is now a new social reality, thus is international punishment. The primary punishment imposed by the international criminal courts and tribunals is imprisonment. The availability of appropriate means to implement such sentences is of paramount importance, as ‘the enforcement of sentences constitutes the backbone of any criminal justice system which may affect its legitimacy’. The obvious means required for the international criminal justice system to truly play its part and provide justice, is hence the availability of appropriate prison capacity.

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