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News Treaty bodies
12 May 2023
The Committee against Torture this morning closed its seventy-sixth session after adopting its concluding observations on the reports of Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg and Slovakia on their efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Erdogan Iscan, Committee Rapporteur, presenting the Committee’s annual report, said the report covered the period from 14 May 2022 to 12 May 2023. During that period, the Committee considered, and adopted concluding observations on 16 reports submitted under article 19 of the Convention. The Committee deeply regretted the fact that some States parties did not comply with their reporting obligations under article 19 of the Convention. At the time of reporting, there were 30 States parties with overdue initial reports and 52 States parties with overdue periodic reports.
Under article 22 of the Convention, the Committee adopted 31 decisions on the merits, declared 9 communications inadmissible, and discontinued the consideration of 13 communications. A total of 51 complaints concerning States parties had been registered since the writing of the previous report. The Committee’s workload under article 22 remained significant and had continued to increase further owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences on the work of the Committee. As of today, 12 May 2023, 196 complaints were pending consideration.
Mr. Iscan said a joint meeting was held between the members of the Committee and the members of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture. The Committee adopted a joint statement with the Subcommittee and the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture. During the period under review, the Committee benefited from thematic briefings arranged by non-governmental organizations and institutions. It also continued to engage in the treaty body strengthening process and make contributions to the proposal endorsed by the Chairpersons of human rights treaty bodies at their thirty-fourth meeting.
The Rapporteur said that at its seventy-sixth session, the Committee adopted decisions on the merits in respect of 10 individual communications. During its seventy-fourth session, the Committee reviewed submissions related to four cases that were currently monitored through the Committee’s follow-up procedure. The Committee reviewed the information received with regard to the four decisions and decided to keep the follow-up dialogue ongoing. Also at its seventy-fourth and seventy-fifth session, Ms. Ana Racu, the Committee’s rapporteur on reprisals, presented to the Committee an oral report on reprisals. The Committee received updates regarding reprisals in the context of pending complaints and follow-up to decisions.
The annual report was adopted.
Claude Heller, Committee Chairperson, said the seventy-sixth session was held from 17 April to 12 May 2023. The Committee had adopted its concluding observations on the reports of Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg and Slovakia. The concluding observations would be available on the Committee webpage as of 1 p.m. today.
The Committee is scheduled to hold its seventy-seventh session from 10 July to 28 July 2023, during which it will consider the reports of New Zealand, Romania, Spain and Switzerland.
Summary of Concluding Observations
CLAUDE HELLER, Committee Chairperson, said the Committee noted the political will of the State party to address human rights issues and welcomed the establishment of the Ministry of Human Rights and Citizenship. However, it expressed its deep concern about the persistent use of excessive force, especially lethal force, by law enforcement and military officials in the context of security operations to combat organised crime. In this regard, it expressed serious concern about the grave human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual violence and beatings, perpetrated predominantly against Afro-Brazilians.
The Committee called on the State party to take urgent measures to end the use of excessive force, especially lethal force, by law enforcement and military officials, including by continuing its efforts to demilitarise law enforcement activities, strengthening independent oversight mechanisms with regard to all law enforcement entities in the State party, and ensuring that all complaints of excessive use of force, especially lethal force, by these entities were promptly and impartially investigated, that the suspected perpetrators were prosecuted and, if found guilty, were punished in a manner commensurate with the seriousness of their actions, and that the victims or their families received full redress.
With regard to Colombia, Mr. Heller said that while welcoming Colombia’s commitment to fully implement the 2016 Peace Agreement and to pursue the objectives of the Total Peace Plan, the Committee expressed concern regarding violence committed by non-State armed actors and criminal organizations in various areas of the country. It asked the State party to redouble its efforts to eradicate such violence and adopt an action plan for dismantling illegal armed organizations that was in keeping with the recommendations of the Truth Commission. The Committee also expressed its deep concern about allegations of acts of torture, both physical and psychological, and ill-treatment of peaceful demonstrators, human rights defenders and journalists, in addition to other serious violations allegedly committed by police officers and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad the peaceful protests of 2021 and asked Colombia to proceed with prompt investigations and prosecutions of those cases.
The Committee acknowledged Colombia’s ongoing efforts to formulate a comprehensive policy aimed at protecting and preventing the risks faced by human rights defenders, social leaders and journalists, among other measures, and urged it to take the necessary measures to protect these persons from reprisals or attacks in the course of their activities, investigate and prosecute all killings, attacks and acts of harassment against them, and reinforce the protection mechanisms in place.
On Ethiopia, Mr. Heller welcomed the signature, on 2 November 2022, by the Ethiopian Federal Government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front of a Permanent Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. The Committee expressed its deep concern about the alleged extensive violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, including in the regions of Tigray, Amhara and Afar, against civilians suspected to be members or supporters of armed insurgent groups and members of the political opposition, in particular ethnic Tigrayans, as well as human rights defenders, dissenting journalists and protesters. The Committee called on the State party to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into all alleged violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, especially those that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed in the context of the conflict in Tigray and surrounding areas, both by non-State and State actors, in order to identify, prosecute and punish those responsible.
The Committee recommended that the State party ensure that all complaints of torture and ill-treatment were investigated in a prompt and impartial manner by an independent body and that the suspected perpetrators and the superior officers responsible for ordering or tolerating the acts were duly tried and, if found guilty, punished in a manner that was commensurate with the gravity of their acts.
Concerning Kazakhstan, Mr. Heller said the Committee welcomed several legislative reforms and the State party’s zero tolerance for torture policy. However, it was concerned about consistent reports indicating various forms of torture, ill-treatment, including excessive use of force, beatings and sexual violence in custody that occurred in the context of the January 2022 events and called upon the State to ensure independent, impartial and prompt investigations into such violations. It was also concerned about violence and deaths in custody and asked the State to carry out thorough investigations into all incidents, paying specific attention to allegations of violence against women detainees and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
While appreciating the steps taken by Kazakhstan to transfer the provision of healthcare services in pre-trial and penitentiary facilities from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to the Ministry of Health and Social Services, the Committee remained concerned about several shortcomings in the provision of adequate health care and medication in those facilities. It asked the State to continue improving the quality of health services provided to detainees by recruiting more medical personnel who were well-trained, including psychiatrists, particularly for those in need of specialised treatment, such as HIV infected-persons and persons with disabilities.
With regard to Luxembourg, Mr. Heller said the Committee was concerned that the bill introducing body cameras for police officers did not include the prevention and punishment of violence and excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies among its main objectives. The Committee recommended that the State party take measures to ensure a balanced approach to the use of body cameras, in accordance with the principles of necessity and proportionality. While noting that Luxembourg’s Code of Criminal Procedure imposed strict conditions on the use of intimate body cavity searches, the Committee was concerned that full searches were not subject to similar conditions. The Committee asked Luxembourg to exercise strict supervision of body search procedures and ensure that such searches were not degrading and ensure that invasive body searches were conducted only in exceptional cases. The Committee invited Luxembourg to consider alternatives to intimate body cavity and full body searches.
The Committee took note of efforts made by Luxembourg to eliminate trafficking in persons. However, it was concerned about the increase in the number of cases and the emergence of forced labour as a new predominant form of exploitation in Luxembourg, particularly in the construction and catering sectors. The Committee asked the State party to continue its efforts to stop trafficking in persons, including by improving data collection, and take measures to make the conditions of victims’ access to compensation granted by the courts and the State more flexible.
Regarding Slovakia, Mr. Heller said the Committee had concerns over the lack of prosecutions in the State party for the crime of torture, noting that other charges that perpetrators faced did not do justice to the gravity of the offences committed. It also raised concerns over the independence and impartiality of the Bureau of Inspection Service - the body charged with the investigation of acts of police violence. The Committee requested the State party to ensure that acts of torture and ill-treatment were prosecuted as such, and that investigations were carried out by independent mechanisms which complied with the requirement of institutional independence, free from any potential conflicts of interest.
The Committee commended steps taken by the State party to right historical injustices, such as the involuntary sterilisation of Roma women. While taking note of proposed legislation which would provide compensation for victims, the Committee expressed its concern over the short window of time proposed for victims to lodge their claims, along with the relatively low amount of compensation offered. The Committee recommended that Slovakia increase the claims window proposed and consider increasing the compensation offered. The Committee also recommended the State party to take proactive steps to raise awareness of the compensation scheme, and to remove any financial barriers associated with lodging claims.
Mr. Heller said the Committee called on States parties to the Convention to create an environment that was conducive to full participation of civil society organizations, and was free from interference, harassment and intimidation. Also, in line with its standard practice, the Committee would like to remind all States parties about their obligation to ensure that no one who cooperated or met with the Committee in the context of reviews under article 19 of the Convention was subject to reprisals or other acts of intimidation.
Mr. Heller said that during this session, the Committee examined 18 individual complaints and adopted 10 decisions on the merits and three decisions on admissibility. Additionally, five complaints were discontinued in accordance with the Committee’s Rules of Procedure. The Committee also adopted a decision requesting the publication of the guidelines on third-party interventions, which were adopted in November 2022, as well as an updated version of its rules of procedure. The guidelines introduced a new rule to the Committee’s rules of procedure, specifically rule 118 bis.
During 2023, the Committee would continue focusing on certain thematic topics, especially those related to torture during international and non-international armed conflicts, which was the subject matter on which the four anti-torture entities would be issuing a statement on 26 June.
The Committee’s work had been most constructive and substantive during the session, thanks to the commitment and professional assistance of the Experts, Mr. Heller concluded.
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