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12 May 2023
GENEVA (12 May 2023) – The UN Committee against Torture (CAT) on Friday issued its findings on Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg and Slovakia after reviewing the six States parties in the latest session.
The findings contain the Committee's main concerns and recommendations on each country’s implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Key highlights include:
The Committee noted Brazil’s political will to address human rights issues and welcomed the establishment of the Ministry of Human Rights and Citizenship. The Committee, however, expressed serious concern about the grave human rights violations, particularly extrajudicial killings, torture and sexual violence, mainly against Afro-Brazilians during highly militarised raids in favelas carried out by law enforcement officials from multiple State security entities, including the military police, the civilian police and the federal highway police. The Committee urged Brazil to take urgent measures to demilitarise law enforcement activities, end the use of excessive force, especially lethal force, by law enforcement and military officials, and strengthen its independent oversight mechanisms.
Regarding reports of overcrowding in prisons and the very high incarceration rate, including in pretrial detention, of young Afro-Brazilian men and women for drug-related offences, the Committee expressed alarm at the lack of effective measures to address the root causes of the extra-ordinary high incarceration rates of Afro-Brazilians, including overpolicing, racial profiling, systemic racial discrimination within law enforcement and other judicial agencies. The Committee called on Brazil to eliminate overcrowding in all detention centres, solve any deficiencies related to the general prison living condition to ensure full compliance with the Nelson Mandela Rules, thoroughly review existing laws, policies and practices to address the root causes of the disproportionate incarceration rates of Afro-Brazilians, and to ensure the continuity of medical treatment in prison.
The Committee welcomed Colombia’s commitment to fully implement the 2016 Peace Agreement and its efforts to achieve the objectives of the Total Peace Plan. The Committee, however, asked Colombia to redouble its efforts to eradicate violence committed by non-State armed actors and adopt an action plan for dismantling illegal armed organisations. The Committee was also concerned about overcrowding, other material shortcomings or deficiencies and general living conditions in places of deprivation of liberty. It asked the State party to adopt urgent measures addressing these concerns. It further encouraged Colombia to complete the ratification process of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and to establish an independent national monitoring body to prevent torture.
The Committee acknowledged Colombia’s ongoing efforts to develop a comprehensive policy aimed at protecting human rights defenders, social leaders and journalists. It urged the State party to take the necessary measures to prevent these people from reprisals or attacks during their activities, investigate and prosecute all killings, attacks and acts of harassment against them, and strengthen the existing protection mechanisms.
While welcoming the signing of the Permanent Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between the Ethiopian Federal Government and the TPLF in November 2022, the Committee expressed its deep concern about the alleged extensive violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee laws, including in Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions against civilians, in particular ethnic Tigrayans, human rights defenders, dissenting journalists and protesters. The Committee was disturbed by reports of summary executions, deliberate attacks on civilian populations, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary and prolonged detention without charges and judicial process, incommunicado detention in unofficial facilities or military centres, recruitment and use of children in the hostilities, conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence, trafficking in persons, denial of access to humanitarian assistance and the destruction of civilian property by all parties to the conflict. It urged Ethiopia to investigate all alleged violations, especially those that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed in the conflict in Tigray and surrounding areas. The Committee further asked Ethiopia to ensure full and unconditional humanitarian access to all conflict-affected areas.
The Committee was gravely concerned about complaints of torture and ill-treatment by police officers, prison guards and other military and security forces members in police stations, detention centres, federal prisons, military bases and in unofficial or secret detention places. It also noted with concern that there is still no independent, effective and confidential mechanism to handle complaints of torture or ill-treatment in detention facilities and that existing investigation bodies lack the necessary independence. The Committee requested that the State party take measures to ensure all complaints of torture and ill-treatment are investigated by an independent body and that the suspected perpetrators and the superior officers responsible for ordering or tolerating these acts are duly tried and punished.
The Committee was alarmed by consistent reports indicating various forms of torture, ill-treatment, including excessive use of force, beatings and sexual violence in custody that occurred during protests in January 2022, as well as violence and deaths in custody during other occasions. It called upon Kazakhstan to ensure independent, impartial and prompt investigations into all incidents, and pay specific attention to allegations of violence against women detainees and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Committee also noted with concern the reports of hazing and psychological pressure as possible causes of self-harm, suicides, and deaths in the armed forces, it asked Kazakhstan to strengthen its preventive actions aimed at eliminating these issues.
While noting 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, the Committee remained concerned about several shortcomings in health care services and medication in these facilities. It asked the State party to continue improving the quality of health services for detainees by recruiting more medical personnel, including psychiatrists, particularly for those in need of specialized treatment, such as HIV patients and people with disabilities.
The Committee was concerned that the bill introducing body cameras for police officers did not include preventing and punishing excessive use of force. The Committee recommended that Luxembourg take measures to ensure a balanced approach to the use of body cameras in accordance with the principles of necessity and proportionality, particularly addressing the prevention and prosecution of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials. While noting that Luxembourg’s Code of Criminal Procedure imposes strict conditions on the use of intimate body cavity searches, the Committee was concerned that full searches are not subject to similar conditions. The Committee asked Luxembourg to strictly supervise body search procedures and ensure that such searches are not degrading and that invasive body searches are conducted only in exceptional cases.
The Committee took note of Luxembourg’s efforts to eliminate trafficking in persons. It, however, was concerned about the increase in trafficking cases and the emergence of forced labour as a new predominant form of exploitation in the country, 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 facilitate victims’ access to compensation granted by the courts and the State.
The Committee questioned the lack of prosecutions in Slovakia for the crime of torture and expressed concerns about the independence and impartiality of the Bureau of Inspection Service, the agency tasked with investigating police violence. The Committee requested that the State party take steps to ensure that all acts of torture and ill-treatment are prosecuted as such, and that investigations are carried out by independent mechanisms which comply with the requirement of institutional independence, free from any potential conflicts of interest.
The Committee commended steps taken by Slovakia to right historical injustices, such as the involuntary sterilisation of Roma women. While noting the proposed legislation would provide compensation for victims of torture, the Committee expressed its concern over the short time frame allowed for victims to lodge their claims, along with the relatively low amount of compensation. The Committee recommended that Slovakia extend the window of filing claims and consider increasing the compensation amount. The Committee also recommended that the State party take proactive steps to raise awareness of the compensation scheme, and to remove any financial barriers related to lodging claims.
The above findings, officially named Concluding Observations, are now available on the session page.
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The Committee against Torture monitors States parties’ adherence to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which to date has 173 State parties. The Committee comprises 10 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. The Committee’s concluding observations are an independent assessment of States’ compliance with their human rights obligations under the treaty.
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