The Committee Against Torture and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women may, on their own initiative, initiate inquiries if they have received reliable information containing well-founded indications of serious or systematic violations of the conventions in a State party.
Which States may be subject to inquiries?
Inquiries may only be undertaken with respect to States parties who have recognized the competence of the relevant Committee in this regard. States parties to CAT may opt out, at the time of ratification or accession, by making a declaration under article 28; States parties to the CEDAW Optional Protocol may similarly exclude the comptence of the Committee by making a declaration under article 10.
Article 20 of the Convention Against Torture and articles 8 to 10 of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW set out the following basic procedure for the relevant Committee to undertake urgent inquiries:
- The procedure may be initiated if the Committee receives reliable information indicating that the rights contained in the Convention are being systematically violated by the State party. In the case of CAT, the information should contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practised in the territory of the State party; in the case of CEDAW, the information should indicate grave or systematic violations of the rights set forth in the Convention by a State party.
- The first step requires the Committee to invite the State party to co-operate in the examination of the information by submitting observations.
- The Committee may, on the basis of the State party's observations and other other relevant information available to it, decide to designate one or more of its members to make a confidential inquiry and report to the Committee urgently. The CEDAW procedure specifically authorizes a visit to the territory of the State concerned, where warranted and with the State's consent.
- The findings of the member(s) are then examined by the Committee and transmitted to the State party together with any appropriate comments or suggestions/recommendations.
- The CEDAW procedure sets a six-month deadline for the State party to respond with its own observations on the Committee's findings, comments and recommendations and, where invited by the Committee, to inform it of the measures taken in response to the inquiry.
- The Committee may decide, in consultation with the State party, to include a simmary account of the results of the proceedings in its annual report.
In both cases, the procedure is confidential and the cooperation of the State party must be sought throughout.