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Committee against Torture concludes forty-ninth session

Adopts Concluding Observations on Reports of Peru, Mexico, Norway, Qatar,
Senegal, Tajikistan, Gabon, Russian Federation and Togo

The Committee against Torture today concluded its forty-ninth session after adopting its concluding observations and recommendations on the reports of Peru, Mexico, Norway, Qatar, Senegal, Tajikistan, Gabon, Russian Federation and Togo. 

The concluding observations and recommendations on the reports of the nine countries will be available at the following link this afternoon.

In the concluding meeting, Claudio Grossman, Chairperson of the Committee against Torture, said the Committee had adopted a General Comment on implementation of article 14 by States parties on redress and the right to fair and adequate compensation for all victims of an act of torture.  The adoption of this General Comment boded well.  The Committee intended to celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary at its next session in May 2013.  The Committee had also decided to appoint a rapporteur on reprisals.  This was a step forward to ensure States’ compliance with their obligations under the Convention.  There was a need to create an environment where the contributions of human rights defenders continued, as they were a valuable resource. 

Unfortunately, this was not the situation that they perceived today.  The Committee had seen instant retaliation and reprisal against human rights defenders who had cooperated with the Committee.  This was a matter of utmost urgency.  In response to a question, the Chairperson said that the Committee had decided to create the position of rapporteur on reprisals but had not yet appointed the rapporteur.

Joao Nataf, Secretary of the Committee, said the Committee would hold a press conference at 2 p.m. this afternoon to make public its concluding observations and recommendations on the reports reviewed during the session.  At the May session, eight States parties would be reviewed.  They were Japan, Estonia, United Kingdom, Bolivia, Mauritania, Netherlands, Guatemala and Kenya. 

The General Comment No. 3 of the Committee against Torture explains and clarifies to States parties the content and scope of the obligations under article 14 of the Convention concerning redress and right to fair and adequate compensation for all victims of an act of torture.  Redress includes five forms of reparation: restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and the right to truth, and guarantees of non-repetition.  Procedural obligations of States to provide redress include enactment of effective legislative, administrative, judicial and other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction. 

States also have an obligation to ensure that impartial and effective complaints mechanisms are established and that they are known and accessible to the public, including to persons deprived of their liberty.  The Committee highlights the importance of the State party affirmatively ensuring that victims and their families are adequately informed of their right to pursue redress, to make the procedures for seeking reparation transparent and to ensure that access to justice and to mechanisms for obtaining redress are accessible to all without discrimination on any ground.  States shall establish a system to oversee, monitor, evaluate and report on their provision of redress measures and should include in their reports to the Committee data and other key factors regarding redress measures afforded to victims of torture or ill-treatment.  The General Comment in full can be seen here.
In addition to the consideration of country reports, the Committee during the session also held a meeting with the Sub-Committee on the Preventative of Torture in which it discussed working in closer proximity and they decided to request that their meetings be held at the same time and in the same building to make it easier to deepen their cooperation.  The Sub-Committee presented to the Committee its activities for 2012 since they had last met earlier this year, and its future plans for 2013.  Issues raised during the discussion concerned the treaty body strengthening process; using information and plans from the Committee to help inform the decisions of the Sub-Committee concerning their visiting programmes; the change of membership at the end of the year of five of the original  founder members of the Sub-Committee which would mean the loss of a huge source of wisdom and knowledge; the role of the Sub-Committee in advising and assisting States parties to establish national preventive mechanisms; the draft guidelines for the assessment of respect for human rights in places where people were kept involuntarily, whether they be prisons or mental health hospitals; and reprisals against people who had contributed to the work of the Sub-Committee or the work of national preventive mechanisms. 

The Committee said it had also established a rapporteur on reprisals because it was an issue that involved them greatly. 

The Sub-Committee said that they had come up against reprisals in the majority of missions that they had undertaken, with one or two exceptions.  The types of sanctions varied from threats, being put in isolation and ill-treatment.  As the issue of reprisals was very important and serious, the Committee and the Sub-Committee discussed collaborating together.

In another meeting, the Committee heard its follow-up rapporteurs on articles 19 and 22 present their reports.  Felice Gaer, rapporteur on follow-up on concluding observations (article 19), presented an update and provided an overview of the most frequently addressed follow-up topics and identified general trends in this area: a) increased occurrence of redress concerns; b) low reporting rates under this procedure by State parties with overdue periodic reports; c) longer State party’s submissions and d) more detailed reports by non-governmental organizations. She was also concerned by the fact that follow-up information was not always properly reflected in the new optional reporting procedure.

Fernando Marino, rapporteur on follow-up to views (article 22), provided an update of all follow-up submissions on individual cases received since the May session and the adoption of the Committee's annual report.  The cases concerned Algeria, Kazakhstan, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine.

 In one case against Sweden, the Committee decided to put the follow-up dialogue to an end, in light of the measures taken so far by the Swedish authorities, i.e. granting the refugee residence permit to the complainants (M.A.M.A. v. Sweden, Case No. 391/2009).  The Committee also decided to have a meeting with representatives of the Permanent Mission of Algeria in Geneva and discuss the absence of a follow-up reply in case Hanifi v. Algeria, Case No 341/2008. 

The Committee also decided to seek an update from Senegal on the measures taken in cases 181/2001, Suleymane Guengueng et al. v. Senegal (Hissen Habré's case), and on the follow-up mechanism and visits to the complainant in the case of Kalinichenko v. Morocco, Case No. 428/2010.

The next session of the Committee against Torture will be held from 6 to 31 May, during which it will review the reports of Japan, Estonia, United Kingdom, Bolivia, Mauritania, Netherlands, Guatemala and Kenya.  More information on the session can be found at the following link.

For use of the information media; not an official record