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Committee against Torture discusses follow-up to concluding observations and individual communications

Committee against Torture

10 May 2016

The Committee against Torture this afternoon discussed the issue of follow-up to concluding observations and recommendations and to individual communications, hearing from Committee members Jens Modvig, Rapporteur on follow-up to concluding observations, and Sapana Pradhan-Malla, Rapporteur on follow-up to individual communications.

Presenting the report on follow-up to Article 19 on concluding observations, Mr. Modvig, Committee Chairperson, recalled that at its fifty-fifth session, the Committee had adopted new guidelines for the follow-up procedure, with the purpose of aligning it with the follow-up procedures of other treaty bodies, notably the Human Rights Committee.  The new guidelines had been implemented for the four sessions available for follow-up, the fiftieth to fifty-third session, during which 33 States parties had been reviewed.  The guidelines had enabled the Committee to systematically assess the 22 follow-up reports it had received, containing 84 recommendations, and it had found that the majority of recommendations were either fully or substantively implemented: in six per cent of the cases, the recommendations were fully implemented, substantive steps had been taken in 25 per cent and initial steps in 33 per cent of the cases.

Concerning the compliance with individual communications based on Article 22 of the Convention, Ms. Pradhan-Malla briefed the Committee members on eight cases from five States, namely Switzerland, the Netherlands, Mexico, Kazakhstan and Denmark.  The case from Switzerland and the case from the Netherlands had satisfactory resolution, with the States parties agreeing to grant permanent residence to the complainants.  Denmark agreed, on the Committee’s recommendation, to reopen the case and re-examine the expulsion procedure.  There was an update on the Mexico case, and on three cases from Kazakhstan.

The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 13 May, at 10 a.m., to adopt its programme of work for future sessions and to close its fifty-seventh session.

Follow-up to Concluding Observations

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson and Rapporteur on follow-up to concluding observations, recalled that at its fifty-fifth session, the Committee had adopted new guidelines for the follow-up procedure, with the purpose of aligning it with the follow-up procedures of other treaty bodies, notably the Human Rights Committee.  They included, inter alia, the use of an assessment system for the Committee’s analysis of the States parties follow-up reports, an invitation to States parties to provide a voluntary plan for the implementation of all or some of the recommendations in the concluding observations, how to make recommendations clearer and easier implementable, and the consolidation of the role of civil society organizations and national human rights institutions in monitoring and supporting implementation.  The guidelines had also strengthened the reminder procedure in cases of non-compliance with the follow-up reporting and introduced the possibility of meetings between Committee members and States parties on follow-up.  The new guidelines had been implemented for the four sessions available for follow-up, the fiftieth to fifty-third session, during which the Committee had reviewed 33 States parties, and had received follow-up reports from 23 of them, thus setting the reporting compliance at 65 per cent.  Mr. Modvig stressed that the new guidelines made the lack of reporting compliance visible in the concluding observations, which would hopefully contribute to increasing this compliance.  The Committee had received 22 alternative reports for follow-up, 12 of which related to the follow-up of the United States. 

The Committee had assessed 84 recommendations from the 22 received reports, finding that the majority of those (53 per cent) provided thorough and extensive information related to the recommendations, in 37 per cent of the cases the information addressed the recommendations to some degree, while information provided in 10 per cent of the cases failed to relate to the recommendations.  For the first time, the submitted follow-up reports had been assessed as to the degree to which the single follow-up recommendations had been implemented: the full implementation had been found in six per cent of the cases, substantive steps had been taken in 25 of the cases, initial implementation steps had been taken in 33 per cent of the cases, while in 27 per cent of the recommendations no implementation had been assessed.  In eight per cent of the recommendations, the information had not allowed for an assessment.

In the discussion that followed, Committee Experts asked for details about the geographical distribution of countries which had submitted follow-up reports, topics covered by the Committee during the follow-up, performance in this procedure by specific countries and regions, whether the procedure had increased the quality of reporting, and about contacts with States parties.

Responding, Mr. Modvig said that the presented assessment did not contain all the analysis that the Committee Experts requested, notably on regional and geographical distribution, but he agreed that in principle, the States that were more compliant with their periodic reporting obligations were also more compliant with the follow-up reporting.  With regard to specific topics, Mr. Modvig said that the Committee’s most frequent topic for follow-up recommendation was the implementation of safeguards; according to available data, a surprising number of States parties had problems with the implementation with this obligation.  Mr. Modvig felt that the procedure gave energy to the implementation and focused on implementation, all the while recognizing the sovereign rights of States to focus on other recommendations as well.

Follow-up to Individual Complaints

SAPANA PRADHAN-MALLA, Committee Expert and Rapporteur on follow-up to individual complaints, presented her report on compliance with individual communications based on Article 22 of the Convention and which included information on eight cases from five States: Switzerland, the Netherlands, Mexico, Kazakhstan and Denmark.  Two of the cases – with Switzerland and the Netherlands - had satisfactory resolution, with the States parties agreeing to grant permanent residence to the complainants.  There was an update on the Mexico case, and on three cases from Kazakhstan.  Accepting the Committee’s recommendation, Denmark had agreed to reopen the case and re-examine the expulsion procedure.  In one case, the State party had rejected the Committee’s recommendation mentioning that domestic remedies were appropriate and not exhausted yet and it had accused that the Committee’s recommendation jeopardised the national interest of the State.

During the discussion, Committee Experts took note of the criticism that the follow-up was carried out by the same Committee that had reached determination and asked whether any other body could carry out this task, for example the Special Rapporteur on torture, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, or some political bodies.  The case of Denmark was a very complex one, they agreed, noting that it carried a risk of conflict between the two procedures - the follow-up procedure and individual complaints.  It was up to the Committee to find a procedural resolution to this issue.  Experts inquired about the recommendation to keep the dialogue with Mexico open and about statistics on older cases in order to better understand the impact of their recommendations.

Ms. Pradhan-Malla said that collaborating and communicating with the Special Rapporteur or the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture might be beneficial and agreed that introducing this new practice should be discussed.  The challenge right now was that the Committee did not have a system in place to manage data – reports, communications sent and received, etc. – and the priority should be to put in place a system and a framework which would enable at least basic analysis. 

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