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UN human rights chief welcomes increased capacity of torture-prevention body

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay welcomes a new milestone in the fight to end torture, after a key UN treaty on the prevention of torture received its 50th state ratification, triggering a significant expansion in the capacity of an expert committee that monitors states’ compliance with the treaty.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay: Torture has no place in a civilized society. © UN Photo/Jean-Marc FERREUnder established rules governing international treaties, Switzerland’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture on Thursday enables the number of independent experts who serve on the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture to rise from the ten members at present to 25 in future.

“The Subcommittee is now in a position to broaden its range of activities which include making unannounced visits to places of detention and providing technical advice to States on the establishment of national independent preventive bodies,” said Pillay on 25 September.

“The expansion in the number of experts marks a substantial step forward in the battle to eradicate the hideous practice of torture, which is unequivocally prohibited under international law. The Optional Protocol, and the Subcommittee that monitors its application, are extremely important weapons in preventing torture from taking place.”

The Subcommittee was established in accordance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which entered into force in June 2006. The treaty creates a two-pillar system, at the international and national levels, which is designed to prevent torture and other forms of ill treatment in all places of detention.

The Subcommittee functions at the international level while, at the national level, States must put in place one or several national, independent preventive mechanisms. Under the terms of the Optional Protocol, the international and national bodies are empowered to conduct visits to any place of detention and can hold private meetings with any individuals they choose to interview.

The Convention Against Torture – the parent treaty to which the Optional Protocol is attached – was adopted in 1984 and has currently been ratified by 146 states.

“I urge all states that have signed the Convention to now sign up to its Optional Protocol as well, and the quarter of the world’s states that have not ratified either to do so without further delay,” Pillay said. “Torture has no place in a civilized society.”

The fifty States parties to the Optional Protocol are: Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Senegal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Uruguay.

25 September 2009