COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE HOLDS FORTY-EIGHTH SESSION IN GENEVA FROM 7 MAY TO 1 JUNE 2012
Experts to Consider Reports of Albania, Armenia, Canada, Cuba, Czech Republic, Greece and Rwanda, and a Special Report by Syria
3 May 2012
The Committee against Torture will meet at the Palais Wilson in Geneva from 7 May to 1 June to examine measures adopted by Albania, Armenia, Canada, Cuba, Czech Republic, Greece, Rwanda and Syria to prevent and punish acts of torture. Representatives of the eight countries are expected to come before the Committee to discuss national efforts to implement the rights enshrined in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
At the first meeting, on Monday, 7 May, the Committee will hear an address by Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang, and an update on developments in human rights and other areas of concern to the Committee, and will adopt its agenda and programme of work for the session. It will also elect a Chairperson and Officers, and swear in new members of the Committee. On the afternoon of Tuesday 8 May the Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment will present the Subcommittee’s annual report to the Committee.
During the course of its four-week session, in addition to examining the situation in the eight countries cited, the Committee will consider follow-up to reports provided by States parties to their respective concluding observations. It will also consider, in closed meetings, information appearing to contain well-founded indications that torture is systematically being practised in some States parties, as well as complaints from individuals claiming to be victims of a violation by a State party of the provisions of the Convention. The Committee will also meet in private with representatives of United Nations agencies as well as national human rights institutes and non-governmental organizations from States whose reports are being considered at this session. On the morning of Friday, 1 June the Committee will adopt its annual report to the General Assembly and programme of work for future sessions.
On the last day of the session, Friday, 1 June, the Committee will make public its concluding observations on the reports examined during the session, and will decide on the States parties’ reports to be examined at its future sessions. The reports to be examined at the forty-eighth session are indicated on the Committee’s webpage.
Albania will present its second periodic report, Armenia submitted its third periodic report, the report of Canada is its sixth periodic report, Cuba will present its second periodic report, the Czech Republic will present its combined fourth to fifth periodic reports, Greece has submitted its combined fifth to sixth periodic reports, and the Committee will consider the initial report of Rwanda.
Syria will present a special report requested by the Committee on 23 November 2011 under article 19, paragraph 1 of the Convention.
With regard to reports previously presented by those countries the Committee's conclusions and recommendations can be found in the following documents: for the initial report of Albania, considered in 2005, (CAT/C/CR/34/ALB); for the second periodic report of Armenia, reviewed in 2000, (A/56/44(SUPP)); for the fifth periodic report of Canada, considered in 2005, (CAT/C/CR/34/CAN); for the second periodic report of Cuba, considered in 1997, (A/53/44(SUPP)); for the third periodic report of the Czech Republic, considered in 2004, (CAT/C/CR/32/2); and for the fourth periodic report of Greece, also considered in 2004 (CAT/C/CR/33/2). Syria presented a report in 2010 and the Committee’s concluding observations can be read here: (CAT/C/SYR/CO/1).
Previous concluding observations of the Committee can be accessed on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Website document search page. For further information, including links to the reports to be considered at this session and the programme of work, please see the Committee’s web page for the current session.
Background on the Convention and the Committee
The Convention, adopted unanimously by the General Assembly in 1984, entered into force on 26 June 1987. States parties to the Convention are required to outlaw torture and are explicitly prohibited from using "higher orders" or "exceptional circumstances" as excuses for acts of torture. The Convention introduced two significant new elements to the United Nations fight against torture: first, it specifies that alleged torturers may be tried in any State party or they may be extradited to face trial in the State party where their crimes were committed; secondly, under article 20, it provides for an inquiry, including a visit to the State party concerned, with its agreement, if the Committee receives reliable information, which appears to contain well-founded indications, that torture is being systematically practiced in the territory of a State party.
Under article 21, a State party to the Convention may at any time declare that it recognizes the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications to the effect that a State party claims that another State party is not fulfilling its obligations under the Convention.
Under article 22, a State party to the Convention may at any time declare that it recognizes the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications from, or on behalf of, individuals subject to its jurisdiction who claim to be victims of a violation by a State party of the provisions of the Convention.
The Convention has been ratified or acceded to by the following 150 States: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Yemen and Zambia.
The following 9 States parties have declared that they do not recognize the competence of the Committee provided for in article 20 of the Convention: Afghanistan, China, Equatorial Guinea, Israel, Kuwait, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the Syrian Arab Republic.
The following 56 States have recognized the competence of the Committee under articles 21 and 22: Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela.
In addition, Japan, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States of America have recognized the competence of the Committee under article 21 only. Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Burundi, Guatemala, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, and Seychelles have recognized the competence of the Committee under article 22 only.
Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture
The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which entered into force on 22 June 2006, established a system of regular visits by independent bodies to places where persons are or may be deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment. The Optional Protocol’s innovative two-pillar approach relies on an international body, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT), which is composed of 25 independent Experts, as well as national bodies for the prevention of torture (national preventive mechanisms – NPMs), which must be established or designated by each State party.
As of today, 63 States have ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol: Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Senegal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Uruguay.
Other United Nations Activities against Torture
In addition to preventive measures, the United Nations has taken action to come to the aid of torture victims. In 1981 the General Assembly set up the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Torture. The Commission on Human Rights, and now the Human Rights Council, repeatedly appeal to all Governments, organizations and individuals in a position to do so to contribute to the Fund in order to allow it to respond to the constantly increasing number of requests for assistance.
In accordance with article 26 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, a Special Fund has been set up to help finance the implementation of the recommendations made by the SPT after its visit to a State party, as well as education programmes of the National Preventive Mechanisms.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in resolution 1985/33, decided to appoint an independent expert, a Special Rapporteur, to examine questions relevant to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The mandate, which has subsequently been extended by the Human Rights Council, covers all countries, irrespective of whether a State has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The mandate comprises three main activities: transmitting urgent appeals to States with regard to individuals reported to be at risk of torture, as well as communications on past alleged cases of torture; undertaking fact-finding country visits; and submitting annual reports on activities, the mandate and methods of work to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.
Membership and Officers of the Committee
The Committee's members are elected by the States parties to the Convention and serve in their personal capacity. The current members of the Committee are: Essadia Belmir (Morocco); Alessio Bruni (Italy); Satyabhoosun Gupt Domah (Mauritius); Felice Gaer (United States);Abdoulaye Gaye (Senegal); Claudio Grossman (Chile); Fernando Mariño Menendez (Spain); Nora Sveaass (Norway); George Tugushi (Georgia); and Xuexian Wang (China).
Provisional Timetable of Public Meetings
Monday, 7 May
Morning Opening of Session, Adoption of Agenda, Organizational and other Matters
Afternoon Closed Meeting
Tuesday, 8 May
Morning Consideration of Albania
Afternoon Presentation of the annual report of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by the Subcommittee’s Chairperson
Wednesday, 9 May
Morning Consideration of Greece
Afternoon Replies of Albania
Thursday, 10 May
Morning Consideration of Armenia
Afternoon Replies of Greece
Friday, 11 May
Morning: Meeting with non-governmental organizations
Afternoon Replies of Armenia
Monday, 14 May
Morning: Consideration of the Czech Republic
Afternoon Meeting with States parties
Tuesday, 15 May
Morning Consideration of Rwanda
Afternoon Replies of the Czech Republic
Wednesday, 16 May
Morning Consideration of Syria
Afternoon Replies of Rwanda
Thursday, 17 May
Official United Nations Holiday
Friday, 18 May
Morning Private meeting
Afternoon Replies of Syria
Monday, 21 May
Morning: Consideration of Canada
Afternoon Private meeting
Tuesday, 22 May
Morning Consideration of Cuba
Afternoon Replies of Canada
Thursday, 24 May
Morning Replies of Cuba
Afternoon Follow-up to articles 19 and 22
Friday, 1 June
Morning Adoption of annual report to General Assembly and agreement of the programme of work for future sessions
Afternoon (6 p.m.) Closing of session
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