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Committee against Torture opens its fifty-fifth session

27 July 2015

The Committee against Torture this morning opened its fifty-fifth session, hearing a statement by the Chief of the Petitions and Inquiries Section of the Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and adopting its agenda for the session.

In an opening statement, Carla Edelenbos, Chief of the Petitions and Inquiries Section at the Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the appalling situation of migrants had been highlighted by the High Commissioner at the interactive dialogue on the human rights of migrants at the twenty-ninth session of the Human Rights Council in June 2015. All States had been reminded of their human rights obligations, including the full respect of migrants’ right to be treated with dignity. It was vital that States ensured that people fleeing torture were immediately identified to avoid exposing them to further trauma, ill-treatment or being forcibly returned. People should be afforded the same standard of protection against violations of the Convention against Torture, regardless of how and when they had arrived to a country. It was fundamental to remind States that they should protect vulnerable people and not victimise them. During the current session, a briefing would be organized to address practical and legal challenges of non-refoulement.

Ms. Edelenbos reiterated that the revised Standard Minimal Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, called the “Mandela Rules”, had been adopted by the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice on 22 May 2015. It was expected that a resolution containing the revised rules would be adopted by the General Assembly in December 2015. The “Mandela Rules” introduced the basic principle of the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment under any circumstances. They also broadened and clarified the standards on discipline and sanctions, prohibiting practices such as indefinite solitary confinement and reduction of diet or drinking water. The endorsement of the so-called San Jose Guidelines against intimidation or reprisals by the meeting of Chairpersons of human rights treaty bodies the previous month was warmly welcomed. During the fifty-fifth session, the Committee would be briefed on the new Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights treaty bodies capacity-building programme.

Claudio Grossman, Chairperson of the Committee, said that the San Jose meeting had been successful because of the agreement reached by the Chairpersons of the 10 human rights treaty bodies. Tangible efforts had been undertaken to improve the Committees’ effectiveness, especially across the Western hemisphere; relations between the bodies should be strengthened as a result. In November, a meeting was planned with the view of reaching out to the Caribbean States and encouraging them to ratify the Convention against Torture. The issue of non-refoulement was particularly relevant and would be thoroughly addressed at the current session. Mr. Grossman expressed his gratitude to the Secretariat for all their support ahead of and during the San Jose meeting.

The Committee then adopted the agenda of the fifty-fifth session.

The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 28 July at 10 a.m. to start the consideration of the third periodic report of Slovakia (CAT/C/SVK/3/Rev.1).

During the session, the Committee will consider the reports of Slovakia, Iraq and Switzerland. Interactive dialogues with the three States parties will be webcast live at www.treatybodywebcast.org. The session will conclude on Friday, 14 August 2015. A detailed programme of work, along with the links to the related documentation, is available in the background press release.

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For use of the information media; not an official record