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Committee against Torture to hold sixtieth session in Geneva from 18 April to 12 May 2017

Committee against Torture  

BACKGROUND RELEASE

13 April 2017 

Committee to Review Situation in Pakistan, Lebanon, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Argentina and Republic of Korea

The Committee against Torture will meet at the Palais Wilson in Geneva from 18 April to 12 May to examine measures adopted by Pakistan, Lebanon, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Argentina and the Republic of Korea to prevent and punish acts of torture. Representatives of those countries will 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.

The consideration of the six country reports will take place on the following dates: Pakistan on 18 and 19 April; Lebanon on 20 and 21 April; Bahrain on 21 and 24 April; Afghanistan on 25 and 26 April; Argentina on 26 and 27 April; and the Republic of Korea on 2 and 3 May. A detailed schedule with links to the reports can be found below. 

During the session the Committee will meet with the Chair of the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, who will present the annual report of the Subcommittee on 5 May. The Committee will participate in the Expert Workshop on Torture in the Context of Migration organised during the forty-fifth session of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture. 

It will also hold an informal meeting with respectively States parties and non-governmental organizations. The Committee will discuss a draft revised General Comment on article 3 of the Convention against Torture on non-refoulement of a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture - in public on 28 April and in private on 10 May. It will also discuss follow-up to concluding observations under Article 19 of the Convention and to individual complaints under article 22 of the Convention. Finally it will examine any allegations of reprisals for cooperation with the Committee.  

The Committee will meet in private with non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions and national preventive mechanisms from States under consideration during the session. The Committee will also convene in private to consider communications, including information alleging that torture was systematically being practiced in some States parties, and complaints from individuals claiming to be victims of violations to the provisions of the Convention by a State party. It will also discuss its methods of work and other matters. On the final day of the session, the Committee will adopt its annual report and the programme of work for future sessions. 

The Committee’s dialogues with the delegations will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Palais Wilson. Live webcasts of these meetings can be viewed here. 

The reports that the Committee will review during the session as well as other documentation can be found on the session’s webpage.  

Pakistan is presenting its initial report CAT/C/PAK/1. 

Lebanon is presenting its initial report CAT/C/LBN/1. 

Bahrain is presenting its second periodic report CAT/C/BHR/2 and its third periodic report CAT/C/BHR/3. The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the initial report of Bahrain, considered in May 2005, can be found in CAT/C/CR/34/BHR. 

Afghanistan is presenting its second periodic report CAT/C/AFG/2. The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the initial report of Afghanistan, considered in November 1992, can be found in A/48/44(SUPP) paras.50-62.  

Argentina is presenting its combined fifth and sixth periodic report CAT/C/ARG/5-6. The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the fourth periodic report of Argentina, considered in November 2004, can be found in CAT/C/CR/33/1. 

The Republic of Korea is presenting its combined third to fifth periodic report CAT/C/KOR/3-5. The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the second periodic report of the Republic of Korea, considered in May 2006, can be found in CAT/C/KOR/CO/12. 

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" may be invoked as a justification for acts of torture nor can "higher orders" 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 161 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, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czechia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, 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, Republic of 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, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, State of Palestine, 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, Viet Nam, Yemen and Zambia.

The following 14 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, Eritrea, Fiji, Israel, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Syrian Arab Republic, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam.  

The following 59 States have recognized the competence of the Committee under articles 21 and 22: Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, San Marino, 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, 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 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 within one year after ratification/accession.

Eighty-three States had ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Nauru, Netherlands, Niger, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Slovenia, South Sudan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom 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 as the international tool that makes the right to rehabilitation of thousands of victims worldwide a reality. The Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights 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.  

Contributing to the Fund is a concrete manifestation of the commitment towards the elimination of torture and the rehabilitation of victims, in line with article 14 of the Convention against Torture.  

In 2016 alone, with the critical support of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, over 47,000 victims in 81 countries are being assisted by specialised practitioners from rehabilitation centres, non-governmental organizations and legal aid groups, through a net investment in direct assistance services totalling over $ 7.1 million.  

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 Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) after its visit to a State party, as well as education programmes for the National Preventive Mechanisms. Since its establishment in 2011, the Fund has provided grants for 37 projects in 11 countries across four regions. The projects supported by the Special Fund have had a real impact and have contributed to addressing real needs identified by the SPT in order to assist preventing torture and ill-treatment. The Special Fund also acts as an encouragement to publish visit reports, which further assists more general oversight of the implementation of SPT recommendations. In the coming year, the Special Fund will focus on projects supporting national preventive mechanisms, which play a vital role in preventing torture and ill-treatment through their visits to places of detention, identification of risks and recommendations concerning how to address those risks.

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: Ms. Essadia Belmir (Morocco); Mr. Alessio Bruni (Italy); Ms. Felice Gaer (United States); Mr. Abdelwahab Hani (Tunisia); Mr. Claude Heller Rouassant (Mexico); Mr. Jens Modvig (Denmark); Ms. Sapana Pradhan-Malla (Nepal); Ms. Ana Racu (Moldova); Mr. Sébastien Touzé (France); and Mr. Kening Zhang (China). 

Mr. Modvig is the Chairperson. The Vice-Chairpersons are Ms. Belmir, Ms. Gaer and Mr. Heller Rouassant. Mr. Touzé is the Rapporteur. 

Proposed Programme of Work 

Monday 17 April 

United Nations Holiday 

Tuesday 18 April 

10 a.m. Opening of the session, adoption of the agenda, organizational and other matters  

11 a.m. Closed meeting 

3 p.m. Consideration of initial report of Pakistan CAT/C/PAK/1

Wednesday 19 April 

10 a.m. Closed meeting 

3 p.m. Replies of Pakistan 

Thursday 20 April 

10 a.m. Consideration of initial report of Lebanon CAT/C/LBN/1

3 p.m. Closed meeting 

Friday 21 April 

10 a.m. Consideration of second and third periodic reports of Bahrain CAT/C/BHR/2 and CAT/C/BHR/3

3 p.m. Replies of Lebanon 

Monday 24 April 

10 a.m. Closed meeting 

3 p.m. Replies of Bahrain 

Tuesday 25 April 

10 a.m. Consideration of second periodic report of Afghanistan CAT/C/AFG/2

3 p.m. Closed meeting 

Wednesday 26 April 

10 a.m. Consideration of fifth and sixth periodic report of Argentina CAT/C/ARG/5-6

3 p.m. Replies of Afghanistan 

Thursday 27 April 

10 a.m. Meeting with the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture in the Context of the workshop on migrants and torture (private meeting) 

3 p.m. Replies of Argentina 

Friday 28 April  

10 a.m. Discussion of a draft revised General Comment on article 3 

3 p.m. Closed meeting 

Monday 1 May 

10 a.m. Closed meeting 

3 p.m. Closed meeting 

Tuesday 2 May 

10 a.m. Consideration of third to fifth periodic report of the Republic of Korea CAT/C/KOR/3-5

3 p.m. Closed meeting 

Wednesday 3 May 

10 a.m. Closed meeting 

3 p.m. Replies of the Republic of Korea 

Thursday 4 May 

10 a.m. Closed meeting 

3 p.m. Closed meeting 

Friday 5 May 

10 a.m. Closed meeting 

3 p.m. Meeting with the Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture 

Monday 8 May 

10 a.m. Closed meeting 

3 p.m. Closed meeting 

Tuesday 9 May  

10 a.m. Closed meeting 

3 p.m. Closed meeting 

Wednesday 10 May 

10 a.m. Closed meeting 

3 p.m. Closed meeting 

Thursday 11 May 

10 a.m. Closed meeting 

3 p.m. Closed meeting 

Friday 12 May 

10 a.m. Adoption of annual report, programme of work for future sessions 

__________ 

 

For use of the information media; not an official record 

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