NEW YORK (23 October 2012) – Twenty-five years after the entry into force of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, an impressive international legal framework has developed, but the abhorrent practice continues in too many states, the chairperson of the UN Committee on the issue said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly, Claudio Grossman expressed deep concern about the situation and called on UN Member States to adequately support the UN Committee against Torture in addressing the issue and in assisting State parties to fulfill their obligations under the treaty.
“The Convention has made a real difference in the lives of numerous individuals,” Mr. Grossman told the General Assembly at the presentation of the Committee’s annual report. “However, there is a backlog of more than 115 cases pending before the Committee. This severely weakens the system as justice cannot be provided to States and individuals within a reasonable time.”
Mr. Grossman also outlined a new procedure which makes is procedurally easier and more cost-effective and time-effective for States to report to the Committee on measures they have taken to fight torture. To date, 153 out of the 193 UN Member States have ratified or acceded to the Convention. However, 29 of these have never submitted a report to the Committee, as required.
“The optional reporting procedure has been very successful. However, it places an additional burden on the Secretariat as well as on all members of the Committee. The human resources of the Committee’s Secretariat are also much too limited to support the Committee’s new demands,” he said.
“The Committee has requested the General Assembly to continue to provide necessary financial support,” Mr. Grossman said, adding that efforts to strengthen the treaty body system, including through adequate resourcing, are necessary. “We sincerely hope that the General Assembly will soon bring additional resources to our under-funded system.”
Mr. Grossman also called upon all States that have not ratified this Convention to do so, and to those that are already party to the Convention to accept and respect all the procedures of the Convention, to enable the fullest possible monitoring by the Committee.
“We have not yet achieved a world free from torture, but we believe that this goal is achievable, that rights and duties need to be taken seriously, and that supervisory organs with independent experts are an essential component to achieving that goal,” he said.
The Committee against Torture is a UN body composed of 10 independent experts tasked with preventing torture and monitoring the measures taken by States party to the Convention to prevent and address instances of torture.
(*) Mr. Claudio Grossman is currently the dean of American University Washington College of Law, professor of law and the Raymond Geraldson Scholar for International and Humanitarian Law. He was elected member of the United Nations Committee against Torture in 2003, and has served as Committee chair since 2008. He was a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights from 1993-2001, where he served in numerous capacities including its President (1996-97; 2001), its first Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women (1996-2000), and its Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Populations (2000-2001). Mr. Grossman has authored numerous books and articles on international law, human rights and the law of international organizations and the recipient of many awards for his work in these fields including the 2010 Henry W. Edgerton Civil Liberties Award from the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area in recognition of exceptional lifetime achievements related to the advancement and defense of human rights and civil liberties.
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