COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
Confidential inquiries under article 20 of the Convention against Torture
Under article 20 of the Convention, the Committee is empowered to carry out a confidential inquiry if it receives reliable information which appears to it to contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practised in a State party.
However, no inquiry shall be undertaken with respect to a State party which, in accordance with article 28, paragraph 1, of the Convention, declared at the time of ratification or accession that it did not recognize the competence of the Committee provided for under article 20, unless that State party has subsequently withdrawn its reservation in accordance with article 28, paragraph 2. The States parties that do not recognize the competence of the Committee provided for under article 20 are: Afghanistan, China, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Israel, Fiji, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam.
The procedure set out in article 20 of the Convention is marked by two features: its confidential character and the pursuit of cooperation with the State party concerned.
The Committee may, on the basis of the State party's observations and other relevant information available to it, decide to designate one or more of its members to carry out the confidential inquiry. The Committee shall invite the State party concerned to cooperate with it. Such an inquiry may include, with the agreement of the State party, a visit to its territory.
The findings of the designated members are then examined by the Committee and transmitted to the State party together with any appropriate comments and suggestions. It invites the State party to inform the Committee of the action taken in response to the findings and suggestions.
Upon completion of the proceedings, the Committee may decide, after consultation with the State party concerned, to include a summary account of the results of the proceedings in its annual report or, if agreed with the State party, to make public the full text of the report. Since its establishment in 1988, the Committee has carried out ten inquiries.
The Committee has adopted the following definition of systematic practice of torture:
“The Committee considers that torture is practised systematically when it is apparent that the torture cases reported have not occurred fortuitously in a particular place or at a particular time, but are seen to be habitual, widespread and deliberate in at least a considerable part of the territory of the country in question. Torture may in fact be of a systematic character without resulting from the direct intention of a Government. It may be the consequence of factors which the Government has difficulty in controlling, and its existence may indicate a discrepancy between policy as determined by the central Government and its implementation by the local administration. Inadequate legislation which in practice allows room for the use of torture may also add to the systematic nature of this practice”.
Reports under Article 20