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Committee against Torture to hold fifty-fifth session in Geneva from 27 July to 14 August 2015

BACKGROUND RELEASE

23 July 2015

Committee to Consider Reports of Slovakia, Iraq and Switzerland

The Committee against Torture will meet at the Palais Wilson in Geneva from 27 July to 14 August to examine measures adopted by Slovakia, Iraq and Switzerland to prevent and punish acts of torture. Representatives of those countries are expected to 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 fifty-fifth session of the Committee against Torture will open at 10 a.m. on Monday, 27 July with an address by a representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In that meeting the Committee will adopt its agenda and discuss organizational matters.

The consideration of the three country reports, which will be webcast live, will take place on the following dates: Slovakia (28 and 29 July); Iraq (29 and 30 July); and Switzerland (3 and 4 August). A detailed schedule with links to the reports and related documentation can be found below.

During the session the Committee will also discuss follow-up to concluding observations and recommendations under Article 19 of the Convention and reprisals against persons who cooperate with the Committee. It 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 meet 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.

Slovakia is presenting is third periodic report CAT/C/SVK/3/Rev.1. The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the second periodic report, which was considered in November 2009, can be found in CAT/C/SVK/CO/2.

Iraq is presenting is initial report CAT/C/IRQ/1.

Switzerland is presenting its seventh periodic report CAT/C/CHE/7. The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the sixth periodic report, which was considered in April and May 2010, can be found in CAT/C/CHE/CO/6.

The public meetings will be webcast live here: http://www.treatybodywebcast.org. Detailed meeting coverage can be found in English and French on the United Nations Information Service Geneva’s webpage and further information, including documentation and the programme of work, is available on the Committee’s webpage for the session.

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" maybe invoked as a justification for acts of torture nor "higher orders" could 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 158 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, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, 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, 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, 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 13 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, Israel, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Syrian Arab Republic, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam.

The following 58 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, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, 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.

As of 1 July , 79 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, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, 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. The Commission on Human Rights, and now the Human Rights Council, 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.

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 of the National Preventive Mechanisms.

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: Essadia Belmir (Morocco); Alessio Bruni (Italy); Satyabhoosun Gupt Domah (Mauritius); Felice Gaer (United States); Abdoulaye Gaye (Senegal); Claudio Grossman (Chile); Jens Modvig (Denmark); Sapana Pradhan-Malla (Nepal); George Tugushi (Georgia); and Kening Zhang (China).

Mr. Grossman is the Chairperson. The Vice-Chairpersons are Ms. Belmir, Ms. Gaer and Mr. Tugusi. Mr. Domah is the Rapporteur.

Programme of Work


Monday, 27 July

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

3 p.m. Closed meeting

Tuesday, 28 July

10 a.m. Consideration of report of Slovakia CAT/C/SVK/3/Rev.1

3 p.m. Closed meeting

Wednesday, 29 July

10 a.m. Consideration of report of Iraq CAT/C/IRQ/1

3 p.m. Replies of Slovakia

Thursday, 30 July

10 a.m. Closed meeting

3 p.m. Replies of Iraq

Friday, 31 July

UNITED NATIONS HOLIDAY

Monday, 3 August

10 a.m. Consideration of report of Switzerland CAT/C/CHE//7

3 p.m. Closed meeting

Tuesday, 4 August

10 a.m. Closed meeting

3 p.m. Replies of Switzerland

Wednesday, 12 August

10 a.m. Closed meeting

3 p.m. Follow-up to Article 19 of the Convention and reprisals

Friday, 14 August

10 a.m. Closing meeting

For more information and media requests, please contact:
Liz Throssell ethrossell@ohchr.org+ 41 22 917 9466 / + 41 79 752 04 88

To learn more about the Committee Against Torture, please visit:http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/cat/pages/catindex.aspx

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For use of the information media; not an official record