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COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE REVIEWS THE SITUATION IN CABO VERDE IN ABSENCE OF A REPORT

24 November 2016

The Committee against Torture this morning reviewed the implementation of the provisions of the Convention against Torture in Cabo Verde in the absence of a report and a delegation.

Jens Modvig, Committee Chairperson and Co-Rapporteur for Cabo Verde, recalled that Cabo Verde had ratified the Convention in 1992 and that its initial report had not yet been submitted, even though it had been offered the possibility to do so under the simplified reporting procedure. 

On 10 December 2015, the Committee had notified Cabo Verde of its decision to proceed to a review in the absence of a report, while underlining that Cabo Verde still had the possibility to send its initial report and to accept the simplified reporting procedure.  Reminders had been sent in May and August 2016, without any reply from the State party.

On 9 November 2016, Cabo Verde had informed the Committee that no delegation would attend the review scheduled for 24 November.

Committee Experts urged Cabo Verde to monitor and ensure that the Convention or its domestic equivalent formed the legal basis for court decisions regarding torture, to incorporate in full the Convention’s definition of torture into its criminal code, and to prohibit torture based on discrimination of any kind.  The Criminal Code provided for the possibility of extinction of criminal responsibility through amnesty or pardon, without excluding its application to the crime of torture.  This loophole needed to be closed in order to ensure that there was no impunity for perpetrators of torture.  Cabo Verde should guarantee, in law and in practice, fundamental legal safeguards for all persons deprived of liberty, and also ensure a complete and consistent registration of detainees throughout the period of deprivation of liberty as a concrete measure to prevent torture.  Experts were deeply concerned about police brutality and the continued systematic use of torture and ill-treatment in police stations, and urged Cabo Verde to adopt new non-coercive investigation measures and techniques which protected human rights and ensured the presumption of innocence.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 3 p.m. today, 24 November, to conclude the review of the fourth periodic report of Armenia (CAT/C/ARM/4).

Report

The review of Cabo Verde took place in the absence of a report. 

Questions by the Country Co-Rapporteurs

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson and Co-Rapporteur for Cabo Verde, noted that this review was taking place in the absence of a report and of a delegation of Cabo Verde.  Mr. Modvig recalled that Cabo Verde had ratified the Convention in 1992 and that to date, it had not yet submitted its initial report, despite being offered the possibility to do so under the simplified reporting procedure.  The Chairperson regretted the lack of responsiveness of Cabo Verde in spite of all the attempts to establish a dialogue, and hoped that this review would initiate a different course for the future, the establishment of a constructive dialogue, and soliciting of technical cooperation from appropriate United Nations organs and agencies, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Turning to the definition and criminalization of torture, Mr. Modvig noted that all duly ratified treaties, once published, took precedence over domestic laws and urged Cabo Verde to monitor and ensure that the Convention or its domestic equivalent formed the legal basis for court decisions regarding torture.

The crime of torture had been codified in the Criminal Code, but did not include all elements of the definition as set out in Article 1 of the Convention.  Cabo Verde should incorporate in full the Convention’s definition of torture into its criminal code, and prohibit torture based on discrimination of any kind.

The Criminal Code failed to consistently ensure appropriate penalties for acts of torture, and the crime of torture was still subject to a statute of limitation.  The recent amendment of the Criminal Code in 2015 had not modified this.

The Committee requested data on all instances in which an individual was alleged to have committed torture or ill-treatment since the Convention became law, results of any criminal or administrative processes in this respect, and data on the sentencing of all those convicted of torture or ill-treatment.  The Criminal Code provided for the possibility of the extinction of criminal responsibility through amnesty or pardon, without excluding its application to the crime of torture.  This loophole needed to be closed to ensure that there was no impunity for perpetrators of torture.

The Committee congratulated Cabo Verde on ratifying the Optional Protocol in April 2016, and noted the areas in which additional measures were required to effectively prevent torture and ill-treatment, in particular police abuse and the prison system, juvenile justice, violence against women, trafficking, and housing.

Cabo Verde should ensure, in law and in practice, that all persons deprived of liberty enjoyed fundamental legal safeguards, and in particular the right to request and receive a medical examination for persons deprived of liberty, and the right to have the arrest evaluated by a judge no later than 48 hours after the arrest.  Concern was raised about the incomplete and inconsistent registration of detainees throughout the period of deprivation of liberty, which put them at high risk of torture and incommunicado detention.

What steps were being taken to reform and investigate the police as a result of complaints against police for excessive force?  What was the role of the national Police Council in the investigation of those cases, including data on all criminal proceedings against police officers for excessive use of force or aggression against those individuals arrested or detained?

The National Commission for Human Rights and Citizenship had been established in 2004 but was not compliant with the Paris Principles.  What was the timeline to ensure its compliance with the Paris Principles and to increase its mandate to serve as a national preventive mechanism?  What was its current mandate in terms of monitoring and oversight of all places of detention?

Since 1997, the prison population rate had doubled, from 148 to 273 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants.  Why were more people being incarcerated, what was the current and future use of alternatives to custodial punishment, and what possibility was there for prisoners to file complaints, including for torture and ill-treatment?

What measures were being taken to deal with alleged cases of corruption in the criminal justice system?

The Committee welcomed the inclusion in the Constitution of the prohibition of extradition of an individual where there was a substantial reason to believe that the person to be extradited could be subjected to torture, ill-treatment or the death penalty.  How was this principle implemented in practice?

The Committee was concerned about the lack of a refugee determination process to guarantee that protection needs of all persons seeking asylum were evaluated in accordance with international standards. 

ABDELWAHAB HANI, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Cabo Verde, took note of the efforts taken to ensure the training of the police and government agents in human rights issues, but noted that they seemed to be very general and not specific to the prohibition of torture.  There should be more training for older police officers in order to change practices; training should also cover all the staff in penitentiary and law enforcement, such as personnel directly involved in documentation and investigation of torture and ill-treatment, including medical staff.

Cabo Verde should intensify its efforts, in partnership with the National Commission for Human Rights and Citizenship, to ensure that the police and all personnel of the penitentiary system, as well as all those in contact with detainees, were trained in the Convention and its Optional Protocol, and the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment; and to also ensure that all relevant officers were trained in identifying and documenting cases of torture and ill-treatment in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol.

The Committee was deeply concerned about persistent and systematic use of torture in police stations, and urged Cabo Verde to urgently take all necessary measures to put an end to police brutality, and ensure that the perpetrators were investigated and prosecuted.  Cabo Verde should ensure the development and adoption of new non-coercive investigation measures and techniques which protected human rights and ensured the presumption of innocence.

The Committee was also concerned about the generalized feeling of impunity in the country because of the slowness of the judiciary, which also resulted in mistrust of victims of torture and ill-treatment in the criminal justice system.  Which measures were being taken, in law and in practice, to ensure the right of victims of torture to complain, and that immediate and impartial investigations were taken into all alleged cases of torture? 

The violent clashes between West African migrants and the police which had taken place between 2002 and 2005 and in which 12 persons had been killed must be duly investigated.  Which measures were being taken to prohibit and punish all acts of torture and ill-treatment in prisons, and to ensure that the police did not commit any abuses, notably racially motivated abuses?

The Committee was concerned about abuse and sexual exploitation of children; it had been reported that during the first six months of 2016, 153 cases of violence had been reported, including 24 cases of sexual abuse of children.  Cabo Verde should take all necessary measures to protect the rights of children and prohibit corporal punishment.

Mr. Hani urged Cabo Verde to urgently recognize the competence of the Committee to receive individual communications, and so implement the Universal Periodic Review recommendation it had accepted three years ago.

Questions by the Experts

Other Experts expressed concerns about prison overcrowding, the steady rise in the prison population, and illicit practices in prisons such as drug trafficking; widespread use of child labour particularly in rural areas and children working in the street, and their vulnerability to trafficking; the refusal of Cabo Verde to undertake judicial reform and establish new courts, including juvenile courts, to address the sluggishness of the judiciary system; and the vulnerability of children due to poverty, abuse, sexual violence in schools, exploitation by criminal gangs, and the lack of juvenile detention facilities which led to children being held together with the adult population. 

An Expert raised concern about the lack of data on cases of gender-based violence, including investigations, prosecution and sanctions of perpetrators. 

Experts wondered about the status of the trial for torture of Mr. Carlos Grassa, former director of São Martinho prison – he and four guards had been charged in March 2006 of torturing several prisoners, as a reprisal for their protest against the cancellation of family visits at Christmas; the drafting of a new Human Rights Action Plan and whether it would include specific actions to combat torture and ill-treatment; and the timetable for the establishment of the national preventive mechanism by expanding the mandate of the National Commission for Human Rights and Citizenship.

Concluding Remarks

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, reiterated his hope that this review would initiate a constructive dialogue with Cabo Verde.  Concluding observations on this review would be published at the end of the session.



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