COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
Annual reports: Extract
IV. FOLLOW-UP ON CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS ON STATES PARTIES REPORTS
53. In this chapter, the Committee updates its findings and activities that follow-up to concluding observations adopted under article 19 of the Convention, in accordance with the recommendations of its Rapporteur on follow-up to concluding observations. The Rapporteur’s activities, responses by States parties, and the Rapporteur’s views on recurring concerns encountered through this procedure are presented below, and updated through 15 May 2009, following the Committee’s forty-second session.
54. In chapter IV of its annual report for 2005-2006 (A/61/44), the Committee described the framework that it had developed to provide for follow-up subsequent to the adoption of the concluding observations on States parties reports submitted under article 19 of the Convention. It also presented information on the Committee’s experience in receiving information from States parties from the initiation of the procedure in May 2003 through May 2009.
55. In accordance with rule 68, paragraph 2, of the rules of procedure, the Committee established the post of Rapporteur for follow-up to concluding observations under article 19 of the Convention and appointed Ms. Felice Gaer to that position. As in the past, Ms. Gaer presented a progress report to the Committee in May 2009 on the results of the procedure.
56. The Rapporteur has emphasized that the follow-up procedure aims “to make more effective the struggle against torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment”, as articulated in the preamble to the Convention. At the conclusion of the Committee’s review of each State party report, the Committee identifies concerns and recommends specific actions designed to enhance each State party’s ability to implement the measures necessary and appropriate to prevent acts of torture and ill-treatment, and thereby assists States parties in bringing their law and practice into full compliance with the obligations set forth in the Convention.
57. In its follow-up procedure, the Committee has identified a number of these recommendations as requiring additional information specifically for this procedure. Such follow-up recommendations are identified because they are serious, protective, and are considered able to be accomplished within one year. The States parties are asked to provide within one year information on the measures taken to give effect to its follow-up recommendations which are specifically noted in a paragraph near the end of the conclusions and recommendations on the review of the States parties’ reports under article 19.
58. Since the procedure was established at the thirtieth session in May 2003, through the end of the forty-second session in May 2009, the Committee has reviewed 81 States for which it has identified follow-up recommendations. Of the 67 States parties that were due to have submitted their follow-up reports to the Committee by 15 May 2009, 44 had completed this requirement. As of 15 May 2009, 23 States had not yet supplied follow-up information that had fallen due. The Rapporteur sends reminders requesting the outstanding information to each of the States whose follow-up information was due, but had not yet been submitted, and who had not previously been sent a reminder. The status of the follow-up to concluding observations may be found in the web pages of the Committee (http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/cat/pages/catindex.aspx).
59. The Rapporteur noted that 14 follow-up reports had fallen due since the previous annual report. However, only 4 (Algeria, Estonia, Portugal and Uzbekistan) of these 14 States had submitted the follow-up information in a timely manner. Despite this, she expressed the view that the follow-up procedure had been remarkably successful in eliciting valuable additional information from States on protective measures taken during the immediate follow-up to the review of the periodic reports. One State party (Montenegro) had already submitted information which was due only in November 2009. While comparatively few States had replied precisely on time, 34 of the 44 respondents had submitted the information on time or within a matter of one to four months following the due date. Reminders seemed to help elicit many of these responses. The Rapporteur also expressed appreciation to non-governmental organizations, many of whom had also encouraged States parties to submit follow-up information in a timely way.
60. Through this procedure, the Committee seeks to advance the Convention’s requirement that “each State party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture …” (art. 2, para. 1) and the undertaking “to prevent … other acts of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment …” (art. 16).
61. The Rapporteur expressed appreciation for the information provided by States parties regarding those measures taken to implement their obligations under the Convention. In addition, she has assessed the responses received as to whether all the items designated by the Committee for follow-up (normally between three and six recommendations) have been addressed, whether the information provided responds to the Committee’s concern, and whether further information is required. Each letter responds specifically and in detail to the information presented by the State party. Where further information has been needed, she has written to the concerned State party with specific requests for further clarification. With regard to States that have not supplied the follow-up information at all, she requests the outstanding information.
62. At its thirty-eighth session in May 2007, the Committee decided to make public the Rapporteur’s letters to the States parties. These would be placed on the web page of the Committee. The Committee further decided to assign a United Nations document symbol number to all States parties’ replies to the follow-up and also place them on its website (http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/cat/pages/catindex.aspx).
63. Since the recommendations to each State party are crafted to reflect the specific situation in that country, the follow-up responses from the States parties and letters from the Rapporteur requesting further clarification address a wide array of topics. Among those addressed in the letters sent to States parties requesting further information have been a number of precise matters seen as essential to the implementation of the recommendation in question. A number of issues have been highlighted to reflect not only the information provided, but also the issues that have not been addressed but which are deemed essential to the Committee’s ongoing work, in order to be effective in taking preventive and protective measures to eliminate torture and ill-treatment.
64. In the correspondence with States parties, the Rapporteur has noted recurring concerns which are not fully addressed in the follow-up replies. The following list of items is illustrative, not comprehensive:
(a) The need for greater precision on the means by which police and other personnel instruct on and guarantee detainees their right to obtain prompt access to an independent doctor, lawyer and family member, and the treatment of detainees during pretrial detention;
(b) The importance of specific case examples regarding such access, and implementation of other follow-up recommendations;
(c) The need for separate, independent and impartial bodies to examine complaints of abuses of the Convention, because the Committee has repeatedly noted that victims of torture and ill-treatment are unlikely to turn to the very authorities of the system allegedly responsible for such acts; and the importance of the protection of persons employed in such bodies, and precise information about plans to reform and empower human rights institutions at the national levels to address torture-related issues;
(d) The value of providing precise information such as lists of prisoners which are good examples of transparency, but which often reveal a need for more rigorous fact-finding and monitoring of the treatment of persons facing possible infringement of the Convention;
(e) Numerous ongoing challenges in gathering, aggregating, and analysing police and administration of justice statistics in ways that ensure adequate information as to personnel, agencies, or specific facilities responsible for alleged abuses;
(f) The protective value of prompt and impartial investigations into allegations of abuse, and in particular information about effective parliamentary or national human rights commissions or ombudspersons as investigators, especially for instances of unannounced inspections; the utility of permitting non-governmental organizations to conduct prison visits; and the utility of precautionary measures to protect investigators and official visitors from harassment or violence impeding their work;
(g) The need for information about specific professional police training programmes, with clear-cut instructions as to the prohibition against torture and practice in identifying the sequelae of torture; and for information about the conduct of medical examinations, including autopsies, by trained medical staff, especially whether they are informed of the need to document signs of torture including sexual violence and to ensure the preservation of evidence of torture;
(h) The need for evaluations and continuing assessments of whether a risk of torture or other ill-treatment results from official counter-terrorism measures;
(i) The lacunae in statistics and other information regarding offences, charges and convictions, including any specific disciplinary sanctions against officers and other relevant personnel, particularly on newly examined issues under the Convention, including data on crimes involving torture or ill-treatment said to be motivated by ethnic or racial factors, incidents of sexual violence, complaints about abuses within the military, the use of “diplomatic assurances” for persons being returned to another country to face criminal charges (including information on the matter of diplomatic assurances when they exist, such as the number of cases of returns, the number of cases in which assurances are sought, the minimum requirements for such assurances and any post-return monitoring review mechanisms), etc.;
(j) Concerns about the absence or inadequacy of information on the measures, available or actually used to address complaints of police misconduct, including the creation of oversight commissions or other measures;
(k) The lacunae in statistics concerning fair and adequate compensation and rehabilitation measures for victims of torture, including victims of sexual violence.