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Committee against Torture opens its sixty-sixth session

GENEVA (23 April 2019) - The Committee against Torture this morning opened its sixty-sixth session, hearing a statement by Ibrahim Salama, Director of the Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopting its agenda. 

Mr. Salama remarked that the Committee’s session was taking place at a time when the human rights agenda was losing ground in many parts of the world, but also at a time of powerful movements for human rights.  Mr. Salama said that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in her 2019 human rights appeal committed the Office to further enhance the work on prevention; human rights treaty bodies such as this Committee played a key role in this regard as they were essentially preventive in nature. 

It was therefore essential that the human rights treaty body system was efficient and produced concrete outcomes for the victims.  With the recent accession of Samoa to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the number of States parties now stood at 166, Mr. Salama said, and commended the Committee’s commitment to cooperation with other anti-torture mechanisms, such as the United Nations Working Group on arbitrary detention. 

The 2020 review of the human rights treaty bodies system by the General Assembly was of utmost importance to ensure its sustainability and impact on the ground, Mr. Salama stressed, and welcomed the Committee’s active engagement in this process.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had created a webpage dedicated to the 2020 review with all available information and background documents.  The Committee’s upcoming informal meeting with States and non-governmental organizations would present an opportunity to exchange views on the issue.

In response to the Experts’ questions concerning the holding of the Committee’s third session in 2019, Mr. Salama said that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was examining the potential impact of the recent budgetary cuts for the treaty bodies.

Jens Modvig, Committee Chairperson, in his remarks, presented the agenda and programme of work for the sixty-sixth session and, among other things, highlighted the meetings with national human rights institutions and national prevention mechanisms from countries under review, noting that those from South Africa, United Kingdom and Mexico had confirmed their participation.  During the session, the Committee would consider 12 individual complaints and eight discontinuances, consider the reports on reprisals and its annual report, and hold its second meeting with the United Nations Working Group on arbitrary detention.  Further, the Chair would brief the Experts on the meeting co-organized with the Danish Institute against Torture for and all treaty bodies focal points on the 2020 review, which had taken place in February 2019 in Copenhagen. 

The Committee then adopted the agenda and programme of work for the sixty-sixth session, which will run from 23 April to 17 May 2019, and during which the Committee will review reports presented by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Germany, South Africa, Benin and the United Kingdom.  All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The Committee will next meet in public on Wednesday, 24 April at 10 a.m. to consider the second periodic report of the Democratic Republic of the Congo submitted under the optional reporting procedure (CAT/C/COD/2).

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For use of the information media; not an official record