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23 July 2018

The Committee against Torture this morning opened its sixty-fourth session, hearing a statement by Carla Edelenbos, Chief of Petitions and Inquiries Section of the Human Rights Treaties Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Representative of the Secretary-General. The Committee also adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session.

Ms. Edelenbos informed that the Bahamas had become the 164th State party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on 31 May 2018, and that on 8 June 2018 Niger had submitted its initial report, which had been overdue for almost 20 years. The two events were directly linked with the Convention against Torture Initiative and the Capacity-Building Programme of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In November 2017, a delegation of the Convention against Torture Initiative had undertaken a visit to the Bahamas to offer technical assistance to the Government and to share experiences of ratification of the Convention against Torture. As for the long-overdue initial report of Niger, the Capacity-Building Programme of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had played a key role in remedying the situation through the Regional Office for West Africa in Dakar and the national officer of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights based in Niamey.

Referring to the thirtieth meeting of the chairpersons of the treaty bodies, which had taken place in New York from 28 May to 1 June 2018, Ms. Edelenbos explained that the chairpersons had focused on the alignment of working methods, in particular in relation to the reporting compliance by States, the independence and impartiality of treaty body members, reprisals and follow-up to concluding observations, decisions and views. The chairpersons had paid particular attention to the preparations for the 2020 review of the treaty body system, as well as to the long-standing issue of lack of sufficient resources. One of the outcomes of the meeting was the agreement to propose the appointment of focal points in each treaty body to develop a common “treaty body based” position ahead of the 2020 review. The chairpersons had also agreed to explore further alignment of the simplified reporting procedure at the meeting next year. The chairpersons had also held a meeting with the Secretary-General, who had expressed his strong support for treaty bodies. His next report on treaty body strengthening would be an opportunity to raise various challenges faced by treaty bodies, including in terms of resources.

Ms. Edelenbos welcomed the joint statement “70 years on, torture is still widespread: more action needed to achieve a torture-free world for all” issued on 26 June 2018 for the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. For the first time, the coalition of United Nations anti-torture actors – the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, the Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, and the Committee against Torture – had been joined by the Committee on the Prevention of Torture in Africa, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Turning to the Committee’s workload, Ms. Edelenbos reminded that the workload on individual complaints under article 22 of the Convention had remained significant over the past year. At the end of the sixty-third session, 148 complaints had been pending consideration, which represented a partial reduction of the backlog. Despite the limited resources, the Committee had managed to adopt over the past three sessions decisions in 67 cases (29 decisions on merit, 15 decisions of inadmissibility, and 23 discontinuances). Ms. Edelenbos reminded that the Committee had decided at the last session to establish an inter-sessional working group on individual complaints in order to rationalize the Committee’s workload by considering the draft discontinuances and inadmissibility decisions before the session. As for the work on follow-up, the Committee continued to assess the progress in implementation of its decisions on individual complaints by evaluating written reports on the status of follow-up, and by engaging concerned States parties’ delegations in a constructive dialogue in order to seek compliance with the obligations under the Convention.

Finally, Ms. Edelenbos reminded that the Committee would hold a joint plenary meeting with the Human Rights Committee, as well as a thematic briefing with non-governmental organizations on vulnerable groups. In view of her upcoming retirement at the end of August 2018, Ms. Edelenbos thanked the Committee for its good cooperation and wished it a fruitful and successful session.

Committee Chairperson Jens Modvig thanked Ms. Edelenbos for her hard work and dedication to human rights. He was joined by other Committee Experts, who also inquired about the revisions of the initial report of Niger and about helping other States which were very delayed in submitting their reports.

Ms. Edelenbos said that there was no clear idea at which stage the Capacity-Building Programme was in terms of helping other States to submit their reports.

The Committee then proceeded to adopt the agenda of the sixty-fourth session. During the session from 23 July to 10 August, the Committee will review reports presented by Chile, Mauritania, Russian Federation, and Seychelles. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.

The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 24 July, to start its consideration of the second periodic report of Mauritania (CAT/C/MRT/2).

For use of the information media; not an official record