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Committee against Torture opens its sixtieth session

Committee against Torture

18 April 2017 

The Committee against Torture this morning opened its sixtieth session, hearing a statement by Ibrahim Salama, Chief of the Human Rights Treaties Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopting its agenda for the session. 

In his opening statement, Mr. Salama said that for the first time since the Second World War, hundreds of millions of women, men and children were leaving their countries because of war or dire economic circumstances; many among them suffered torture and ill-treatment in their country of origin or along migratory routes. In this context, the Committee played a crucial role in denouncing the detention of migrants solely on the basis of their immigration status, in stressing the vulnerability of children deprived of liberty because of their parents’ migration status, and in raising concern about appalling conditions of detention of migrants, including sexual abuse and ill-treatment in many parts of the world. In doing so, the Committee was reminding the international community that the only effective approach to migrants must be grounded in the respect for their fundamental rights as human beings, and its voice was relevant more than ever given powerful voices currently promoting messages contrary to a human rights approach to migration. 

The drafting of a revised General Comment on the implementation of article 3 of the Convention against Torture on non-refoulement, and the public discussions that the Committee would have during the session, was raising expectations and hopes for the most vulnerable, including all those migrants whose rights were under attack. The Committee’s informal meeting with States and non-governmental organizations would include a discussion on the implementation of the Convention in the context of mass migration – addressing both duty-bearers and rights-holders on this major challenge was definitely the right way to focus on rights and duties and on root-causes and long-term solutions, stressed Mr. Salama. In closing, he expressed hope that the Committee’s work would contribute to the Global Compact on Refugees to be developed by 2018 under the guidance of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration Louise Arbour.  

Responding to a question an Expert raised about the financial situation facing the international human rights system in light of recent powerful statements, Mr. Salama explained that at the level of the United Nations, there was still no clarity and precision about the change; the United Nations was expecting that changes would happen and was undertaking internal preparations to meet them. As far as the treaty bodies system was concerned, the decision that would be taken by the Fifth Committee on the budgetary implications of the resolution 62/268 would be a clear test of the commitment of States to the treaty bodies system, and would provide indications as to the future. Recalling the words of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in his statement on impossible human rights diplomacy, Mr. Salama stressed that these challenging times were an opportunity to confirm the relevance of international human rights law and its monitoring bodies. 

The Committee then proceeded to adopt the agenda of the sixtieth session. 

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today, 18 April, to begin its consideration of the initial report of Pakistan (CAT/C/PAK/1).  

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For use of the information media; not an official record 

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