Defensores platform

"Defensores" is a platform designed to provide public defenders with a tool to register allegations of torture. This project was carried out in partnership with two key actors in the subject: The Ministry of Public Defense (MDP) and the National Mechanism for Prevention against Torture (MNP). Its implementation facilitates the effective and permanent monitoring of torture by public defenders and generates qualified information for different institutions and society in general. It's the first platform that systematises and allows to visualize cases of torture in Paraguay according to the application of the Istanbul Protocol and organisers hope that it later could be could be an example to be replicated by other countries.

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Torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are considered crimes under international law, so there is a worldwide prohibition to commit them. Paraguay has a particularly brutal record in the commission of these crimes during the Stroessnner dictatorship. However, these practices did not end with the dictatorship. According to reports from the MNP and the United Nations Committee against Torture, the commission of these crimes remains in force. The risks of suffering torture generally occur in situations where people are deprived of their liberty.

As TEDIC is an NGO committed to the fulfillment of Human Rights and the development of civic technology to defend rights, the Ministry of Public Defense (MDP) approached to propose the idea of the project to TEDIC. Institutionally, this problem was identified as a strategic cause in the sense of an opportunity to apply civic technology to combat these practices that violate fundamental rights. TEDIC believe civic technology has the potential to generate positive impacts at the collective level, so the DEFENDERS initiative emerged: a platform designed to provide public defenders with a tool to register allegations of torture. This project was carried out in partnership with two key actors in the subject: the Ministry of Public Defense (MDP) and the aforementioned National Mechanism for Prevention against Torture (MNP). In that regard, an “Interinstitutional Cooperation Agreement" was signed. After the legal link between TEDIC and public institutions, a series of meetings were initiated that allowed a more coordinated and in-depth work to understand the implications of the platform, the specific needs of the public institutions involved, and the realities and possibilities offered by the technology.

Within that framework, the public institutions in question facilitated the entry of TEDIC alongside public defenders and officials, to the state penitentiary "Tacumbú" , allowing the needs of public defenders to be assessed in situ. Likewise, the institutions provided the forms and questionnaires used by public defenders when interviewing persons deprived of liberty, which constituted a key input for the creation of the platform. This is how the project was materialized; which consisted in the creation of a Web platform and Mobile application that allows a sustained record of cases of torture within the police stations and prisons of Paraguay. Its implementation facilitates the effective and permanent monitoring of these types of crimes by public defenders and will generate qualified information for different institutions such as the National Torture Prevention Mechanism (MNP), media, journalists, civil society organizations and the citizens in general. The platform consists of two sections, a mobile application for internal use for the MDP and a website where data, statistics and a map of the allegations of torture made will be displayed. Four workshops were held on the use of the platform in the different MDP units, both in the capital and in Villarica, Encarnación and Ciudad del Este, where 80 public defenders were trained in conjunction with the MNP. Additionally communication materials were made and distributed to sensitize the general public in these issues.

The platform was made based on international standards of respect for the right to privacy, and under cybersecurity criteria. Regarding the right to privacy, understanding that the platform contains sensitive information, it must necessarily be anonymous, according to a general principle of data protection. Thus, only defenders can access the platform to load and / or modify the data. In turn, both the mobile application and the web manage a closed list of users so that only these people have access. Thus, there are 3 different roles: defender, coordinator and observer. The defender can create and modify complaints they have made, the coordinator can see the complaints, and the observer (general public) can only see the statistics created on the complaints. These statistics are displayed anonymously: that is, observers will never see the names of those who reported the events.

Regarding cybersecurity criteria, all measures have been taken to ensure that it is a secure platform. It is also important to mention that the web platform and the application are published as free software which means that the source code is available, so that anyone can analyze it, promote modifications and find errors. The platform was officially launched in October of 2019. The first complaint was registered in November. This project marks a regional precedent of work and articulation between the State and civil society for the defense of human rights against torture.

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Year: 2019
Level of government: National/Federal government


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