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COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE DISCUSSES FOLLOW-UP TO CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS AND INDIVIDUAL COMMUNICATIONS

COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE DISCUSSES FOLLOW-UP TO CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS AND INDIVIDUAL COMMUNICATIONS
17 May 2013

The Committee against Torture this morning considered the issue of follow-up to concluding observations and individual communications, hearing oral presentations by Committee members Felice Gaer, Rapporteur on follow-up to concluding observations, and Fernando Mariño Menendez, Rapporteur on follow-up to individual communications.

Ms. Gaer, presenting her report on follow-up to article 19 on concluding observations, said that a total of 136 States had been reviewed under the follow-up procedure so far, of which 39 did not report on the procedure and the Committee should discuss how it wanted to address the issue of non-reply.  The special report from Syria was due and Ms. Gaer drew the attention of the Committee to the deteriorating situation in the country, and new forms of violence, torture and mutilation, as outlined in the recent reports of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria and the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Another issue for discussion was whether the new simplified reporting procedure or the list of issues prior to reporting should eliminate the follow-up procedure, as suggested by the High Commissioner.

Presenting an update on follow-up to individual communications, Committee Expert Fernando Mariño Menendez, the Rapporteur on the topic, said that the information on individual cases should be included in the Committee’s report to the General Assembly.  There were 24 cases under consideration from 14 States, and the majority related to the principle of non-refoulement under article 3.  The cases came from Algeria, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Norway, Senegal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia and Ukraine.  Mr. Mariño Menendez outlined the status of each case and the actions of the Committee in this regard.

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts commented that the question of what to do with States which never replied to the follow-up procedure was a difficult issue and agreed to include the follow-up in the list of issues prior to reporting, to send reminders to non-replying States and to have meetings with their permanent missions in Geneva on a selective basis.  Experts wondered about instances in which the Committee should close individual cases and whether lack of response from States or complainant’s counsel should be the reason to close the case or to keep it active.  The existence of national preventive mechanisms in States was an advantage for the Committee which could have a natural partner in those national bodies. 

The Committee’s next public meeting will be at 3 p.m. today, 17 May, when it will continue its consideration of the second periodic report of Bolivia (CAT/C/BOL/2), that it started on 16 May 2013.

Discussion


FELICE GAER, Rapporteur on follow-up to concluding observations, presenting her report on article 19 of the Convention, noted that the responses of States to the follow- up procedure had fallen from 75 per cent to about 70 per cent.  A total of 136 States had been reviewed under the follow-up procedure so far, of which 39 had not reported on the procedure; 32 had never replied and 8 State reports were due, that from Albania, Armenia, Canada, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Greece, Rwanda and Syria.  Syria was due to provide a special follow-up report, said the Rapporteur and noted that the update of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria presented during the Human Rights Council session in March 2013 summarised new developments in Syria and stated the spread of violence and new forms of violence at checkpoints.  It also addressed sexual violence and extensively discussed massacres.  In her recent report on Syria, the High Commissioner had indicated that the number of violent deaths in Syria had passed the 80,000 mark and had addressed violence against civilians, acts of torture and mutilation and forced marriages. 

Turning to the States which never replied to the follow-up procedure, Ms. Gaer noted that out of the 32 States, one was from Western Europe, two from Eastern Europe, six from Asia, six from Latin America, and 15 from Africa.  The follow-up procedure was essential to the Committee which should discuss what steps it wanted to take in addressing non-reporting.  Another issue for discussion was whether the new simplified reporting procedure or the list of issues prior to reporting should eliminate the follow-up procedure.  Follow-up letters for Ireland, Belarus, Germany and Sri Lanka and the list of issues prior to reporting for Finland, Monaco, Slovenia and Bulgaria, should be finalized during this current session the Committee.

In the ensuing discussion, Experts said that the question of what to do with States which never replied was a difficult issue; some States thought that this procedure was not within the mandate of treaty bodies and it was hard to treat it as an obligation.  On the other hand, complying with the procedure demonstrated the commitment of States to implement the treaty in good faith.  Perhaps the first step would be to contact the permanent representative of the non-reporting State in Geneva and get the picture of obstacles encountered in replying.  Also, the follow-up questions could be taken into consideration while preparing the list of issues prior to reporting, which should be inserted in the section of Relevant Issues. 

Committee Experts stressed that the Committee should ensure that its action under the follow-up was not monotonous and proposed that its comments on the follow-up history of a State become its standard procedure and to develop a three-step procedure in dealing with non-replies to the follow-up procedure which would include a second letter, a meeting with the State and a country visit.

XUEXIAN WANG, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee noted the consensus within the Committee to include the follow-up in the list of issues prior to reporting, to send reminders to non-replying States and to have meetings with their permanent missions in Geneva on a selective basis.

FERNANDO MARINO MENEDEZ, Committee Expert and Rapporteur on follow-up to individual communications, presented his report on compliance with individual communications based on article 22 and said that the information on individual cases should be included in the Committee’s report to the General Assembly, while the general information on individual cases should be victim oriented.  There were 24 cases under consideration from 14 States: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Norway, Senegal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia and Ukraine.  The acceptance of the individual process by States led to a more diversified type of cases being brought up before the Committee, and the majority of them related to the principle of non-refoulement under article 3.  The action of the Committee was being blocked by ongoing domestic processes in some instances, in several cases the Committee was awaiting dialogue with the States concerned, or was awaiting communication with the complainant’s lawyer. 

Committee Experts wondered about instances in which the Committee should close cases; for example would the lack of response from the State or complainant’s counsel – as was the situation with one of the cases from Serbia - be a reason to close the case or to keep it active.  The existence of national preventive mechanisms in States was an advantage for the Committee which could have a natural partner in those national bodies. 

Continuing the discussion, a representative of Trial took up the issue of individual communications and the specific cases in which dialogue with the State party was lacking and asked what steps in terms of follow-up the Committee could undertake.  A representative of the Open Society Justice Initiative updated the Committee on the development in the case of Mr. Garasimov from Kazakhstan for the torture he had suffered at the hands of the police and encouraged the Committee to follow up with Kazakhstan concerning payment of compensation and guaranties of non-recurrence.

Mr. Mariño Menendez said concerning the case of Mr. Garasimov that the Committee took note of the behaviour of Kazakhstan and expressed surprise that the individual in question did not contact the Committee. 

XUEXIAN WANG, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee welcomed the contributions from non-governmental organizations and thanked the two Rapporteurs for their efforts.


For use of the information media; not an official record

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