dcsimg
English Site French Site Spanish Site Russian Site Arabic Site Chinese Site OHCHR header
Make a donation to OHCHR


Header image for news printout

Committee against Torture to hold fiftieth session in Geneva from 6 to 31 May

Committee against Torture 
BACKGROUND RELEASE 

2 May 2013

Experts to Consider Reports of United Kingdom, Mauritania, Guatemala, Netherlands, Kenya, Bolivia, Japan and Estonia

The Committee against Torture will meet at the Palais Wilson in Geneva from 6 to 31 May to examine measures adopted by the United Kingdom, Mauritania, Guatemala, Netherlands, Kenya, Bolivia, Japan and Estonia to prevent and punish acts of torture.  Representatives of the eight countries are expected to come before the Committee to discuss national efforts to implement the rights enshrined in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

At the first meeting, on Monday, 6 May, the Committee will hear an address by the High Commissioner for Human Rights or her representative and an update on developments in human rights and other areas of concern to the Committee, and will adopt its agenda and programme of work for the session.  In addition to its consideration of the reports of the States parties, the Committee will meet with the Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on 16 May.   The Committee will also consider, in closed meetings, information appearing to contain well-founded indications that torture is systematically being practised in some States parties, as well as complaints from individuals claiming to be victims of a violation by a State party of the provisions of the Convention.  The Committee will also meet in private with representatives of United Nations agencies as well as national human rights institutes and non-governmental organizations from States whose reports are being considered at this session.

The Committee is meeting at the Palais Wilson, but on Tuesday, 7 May at 3 p.m., it will hold a public event in Room XII of the Palais des Nations to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Committee.  During the session, the Committee will also hold a meeting with States parties, hold a meeting with Romania on the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, and discuss follow-up to articles 19 and 22.

During the session, the United Kingdom will present its fifth periodic report (CAT/C/GBR/5), and the Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the fourth periodic report, which was considered in November 2004, can be found in (CAT/C/CR/33/3).  Guatemala is presenting its combined fifth and sixth periodic report (CAT/C/GTM/6), and the Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the fifth periodic report, which was reviewed in May 2006, can be found in (CAT/C/GTM/CO/4).  The Netherlands is presenting its combined fifth and sixth periodic report (CAT/C/NLD/5-6), and the Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the fourth periodic report of the Netherlands, which was considered in May 2007, can be found in (CAT/C/NET/CO/4).

Kenya is presenting its second periodic report (CAT/C/KEN/2), and the Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the initial report, which was considered in November 2008, can be found in (CAT/C/KEN/CO/1).  Bolivia is presenting its second periodic report (CAT/C/BOL/2), and the Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the initial report of Bolivia, which was considered in May 2001, can be found in (CAT/C/BOL/CO/1).

Japan is presenting its second periodic report (CAT/C/JPN/2), and the Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the initial report, which was considered in May 2007, can be found in (CAT/C/JPN/CO/1).  Estonia is presenting its fifth periodic report (CAT/C/EST/5), and the Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the fourth periodic report, which was considered in November 2007, can be found in (CAT/C/EST/CO/4).

Mauritania is presenting its initial report.

For further information, including links to the reports to be considered at this session and the programme of work, please see the Committee’s web page for the current session.

Background on the Convention and the Committee

The Convention, adopted unanimously by the General Assembly in 1984, entered into force on 26 June 1987.  States parties to the Convention are required to outlaw torture and no "exceptional circumstances" maybe invoked as a justification for acts of torture nor "higher orders" can be an excuse for perpetrators.  The Convention introduced two significant new elements to the United Nations fight against torture: first, it specifies that alleged torturers shall be tried in a State party if not  extradited to face trial in another State, therefore ensuring that there are no safe havens for perpetrators of acts of torture who shall not escape justice; secondly, under article 20, it provides for an inquiry, including a visit to the State party concerned, with its agreement, if the Committee receives reliable information, which appears to contain well-founded indications, that torture is being systematically practiced in the territory of that State party.

Under article 21, a State party to the Convention may at any time declare that it recognizes the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications to the effect that a State party claims that another State party is not fulfilling its obligations under the Convention.

Under article 22, a State party to the Convention may at any time declare that it recognizes the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications from, or on behalf of, individuals subject to its jurisdiction who claim to be victims of a violation by a State party of the provisions of the Convention.

The Convention has been ratified or acceded to by the following 153 States: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Yemen and Zambia.

The following 11 States parties have declared that they do not recognize the competence of the Committee provided for in article 20 of the Convention: Afghanistan, China, Equatorial Guinea, Israel, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Syrian Arab Republic and the United Arab Emirates. 
The following 56 States have recognized the competence of the Committee under articles 21 and 22:  Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela.

In addition, Japan, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States of America have recognized the competence of the Committee under article 21 only.  Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Burundi, Guatemala, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, and Seychelles have recognized the competence of the Committee under article 22 only.

Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which entered into force on 22 June 2006, established a system of regular visits by independent bodies to places where persons are or may be deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment.  The Optional Protocol’s innovative two-pillar approach relies on an international body, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT), which is composed of 25 independent Experts, as well as national bodies for the prevention of torture (national preventive mechanisms – NPMs), which must be established or designated by each State party. 

As of today, 68 States have ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol: Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Nauru, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Senegal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Uruguay.

Other United Nations Activities against Torture

In addition to preventive measures, the United Nations has taken action to come to the aid of torture victims.  In 1981 the General Assembly set up the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Torture.  The Commission on Human Rights, and now the Human Rights Council, repeatedly appeal to all Governments, organizations and individuals in a position to do so to contribute to the Fund in order to allow it to respond to the constantly increasing number of requests for assistance.

In accordance with article 26 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, a Special Fund has been set up to help finance the implementation of the recommendations made by the SPT after its visit to a State party, as well as education programmes of the National Preventive Mechanisms. 

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in resolution 1985/33, decided to appoint an independent expert, a Special Rapporteur, to examine questions relevant to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  The mandate, which has subsequently been extended by the Human Rights Council, most recently in resolution 16/23, covers all countries, irrespective of whether a State has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  The mandate comprises three main activities: transmitting urgent appeals to States with regard to individuals reported to be at risk of torture, as well as communications on past alleged cases of torture; undertaking fact-finding country visits; and submitting annual reports on activities, the mandate and methods of work to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.
 
Membership and Officers of the Committee

The Committee's members are elected by the States parties to the Convention and serve in their personal capacity.  The current members of the Committee are: Essadia Belmir (Morocco); Alessio Bruni (Italy); Satyabhoosun Gupt Domah (Mauritius); Felice Gaer (United States); Abdoulaye Gaye (Senegal); Claudio Grossman (Chile); Fernando Mariño Menendez (Spain); Nora Sveaass (Norway); George Tugushi (Georgia); and Xuexian Wang (China).

Mr. Grossman is the Chairperson; the Vice-Chairpersons are Ms. Belmir, Ms. Gaer and Mr. Wang.  Ms. Sveaass is the Rapporteur.

Provisional Timetable of Public Meetings

Monday, 6 May

Morning         Opening of session, adoption of agenda, organizational and other matters

Afternoon      Closed meeting

Tuesday, 7 May

Morning         Fifth Periodic Report of United Kingdom

Afternoon      Event marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Committee

Wednesday, 8 May

Morning         Initial report of Mauritania

Afternoon      Replies of United Kingdom

Thursday, 9 May

Official United Nations Holiday

Friday, 10 May

Morning         Meeting with States parties to the Convention

Afternoon      Replies of Mauritania

Monday, 13 May

Morning:        Sixth periodic report of Guatemala

Afternoon      5 p.m. Meeting with Romania on Optional Protocol to the Convention against                        Torture

Tuesday, 14 May

Morning         Sixth periodic report of Netherlands

Afternoon      Replies of Guatemala

Wednesday, 15 May

Morning         Second periodic report of Kenya

Afternoon      Replies of the Netherlands

Thursday, 16 May

Morning         Second periodic report of Bolivia
                  
                   12 p.m. Meeting with Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Prevention of                            Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Afternoon      Replies of Kenya

Friday, 17 May

Morning         Follow-up to articles 19 and 22

Afternoon      Replies of Bolivia

Monday, 20 May

Official United Nations Holiday

Tuesday, 21 May

Morning         Second periodic report of Japan

Afternoon      Closed

Wednesday, 22 May

Morning         Fifth periodic report of Estonia

Afternoon      Replies of Japan

Thursday, 23 May

Morning         Closed

Afternoon      Replies of Estonia

Friday, 24 May

Morning         Closed

Afternoon      Closed

Friday, 31 May

Morning         Adoption of annual report and programme of work for future sessions

Afternoon      Closing of the session.

__________

For use of the information media; not an official record