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COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE HOLDS SIXTY-FIRST SESSION IN GENEVA FROM 24 JULY TO 11 AUGUST 2017

Committee to Review Reports of Paraguay, Ireland and Panama, and Situation in Antigua and Barbuda in the absence of a report
20 July 2017

The Committee against Torture will meet at the Palais Wilson in Geneva from 24 July to 11 August to examine measures adopted by Antigua and Barbuda, Paraguay, Ireland and Panama to prevent and punish acts of torture. Representatives of those countries will discuss with the Committee national efforts to implement the rights enshrined in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The consideration of the country situation of Antigua and Barbuda in the absence of a report as well as of three country reports will take place on the following dates:
Antigua and Barbuda on 24 and 25 July; Paraguay on 26 and 27 July; Ireland on 27 and 28 July; and Panama on 3 and 4 August. A detailed schedule with links to the countries and reports can be found below.

In addition to examining the States’ reports, the Committee will discuss, in public and private meetings, the follow-up to articles 19 and 22 and to reprisals. It will also meet in private with non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions and national preventive mechanisms from States under consideration during the session.

A draft revised General Comment on article 3 of the Convention against Torture on non-refoulement of a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture will be discussed in two private meetings, on Friday, 28 July, and on Friday, 4 August.

The Committee will hold a private meeting with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and will benefit from a thematic briefing on prison overcrowding by the Penal Reform International and its partners. It will convene in private to consider communications, including information alleging that torture is systematically being practiced in some States parties, and complaints from individuals claiming to be victims of violations to the provisions of the Convention by a State party. It will also discuss its methods of work and other matters. On the final day of the session, the Committee will adopt the programme of work for future sessions.

The Committee’s dialogues with the delegations will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Palais Wilson and will be webcast live. Summaries of the public meetings, in English and in French, will be available on the United Nations Office at Geneva news and media page.

The reports and the country situation in the absence of a report that the Committee will review during the session, as well as other documentation can be found on the session’s webpage.

Antigua and Barbuda will be examined in the absence of its initial report. The delegation will hold its dialogue with Committee Experts via video conference.

Paraguay is presenting its seventh periodic report (CAT/C/PRY/7); the Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on its combined fourth to sixth periodic report, discussed in November 2011, are available in this document: CAT/C/PRY/CO/4-6.

Ireland is presenting its second periodic report (CAT/C/IRL/2). The Committee’s concluding observations on its initial report reviewed in May 2011 can be found in CAT/C/IRL/CO/1.

Panama is presenting its fourth periodic report (CAT/C/PAN/4) and the concluding observations on its third periodic report, which the Committee considered in May 1998, can be read here: A/53/44(SUPP) paras. 206-219.

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 no "exceptional circumstances" may be invoked as a justification for acts of torture nor can "higher orders" be an excuse for perpetrators. The Convention introduced two significant new elements to the United Nations fight against torture: first, it specifies that alleged torturers shall be tried in a State party if not extradited to face trial in another State, therefore ensuring that there are no safe havens for perpetrators of acts of torture who shall not escape justice; 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 that 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 162 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, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czechia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, 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, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, State of Palestine, 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 Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen and Zambia.

The following 14 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, Eritrea, Fiji, Israel, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Syrian Arab Republic, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam.

The following 59 States have recognized the competence of the Committee under articles 21 and 22: Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, San Marino, 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 have recognized the competence of the Committee under article 21 only.

Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Burundi, Guatemala, Mexico, 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 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 within one year after ratification/accession.

Eighty-three States had ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Nauru, Netherlands, Niger, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Slovenia, South Sudan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom 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 has set up the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Torture as an international tool that makes the right to rehabilitation of thousands of victims worldwide a reality. The Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights 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. Contributing to the Fund is a concrete manifestation of the commitment towards the elimination of torture and the rehabilitation of victims, in line with article 14 of the Convention against Torture.

In 2016 alone, with the critical support of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, over 47,000 victims in 81 countries are being assisted by specialised practitioners from rehabilitation centres, non-governmental organizations and legal aid groups, through a net investment in direct assistance services totalling over US$ 7.1 million.

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 Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) after its visit to a State party, as well as to fund education programmes for the National Preventive Mechanisms. Since its establishment in 2011, the Fund has provided grants for 37 projects in 11 countries across four regions. The projects supported by the Special Fund have had a real impact and have contributed to addressing real needs identified by the SPT in order to assist preventing torture and ill-treatment. The Special Fund also acts as an encouragement to publish visit reports, which further assists more general oversight of the implementation of SPT recommendations. In the coming year, the Special Fund will focus on projects supporting national preventive mechanisms, which play a vital role in preventing torture and ill-treatment through their visits to places of detention, identification of risks and recommendations concerning how to address those risks.

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, most recently in resolution 16/23, 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: Ms. Essadia Belmir (Morocco); Mr. Alessio Bruni (Italy); Ms. Felice Gaer (United States); Mr. Abdelwahab Hani (Tunisia); Mr. Claude Heller Rouassant (Mexico); Mr. Jens Modvig (Denmark); Ms. Sapana Pradhan-Malla (Nepal); Ms. Ana Racu (Moldova); Mr. Sébastien Touzé (France); and Mr. Kening Zhang (China).

Mr. Modvig is the Chairperson. The Vice-Chairpersons are Ms. Belmir, Ms. Gaer and Mr. Heller Rouassant. Mr. Touzé is the Rapporteur.

Proposed Programme of Work

Monday, 24 July
10 a.m. Opening of the session, adoption of the agenda
11 a.m. Closed meeting
3 p.m. Consideration of Antigua and Barbuda
Tuesday, 25 July
10 a.m. Closed meeting
3 p.m. Replies of Antigua and Barbuda
Wednesday, 26 July
10 a.m. Consideration of Paraguay (CAT/C/PRY/7)
3 p.m. Closed meeting
Thursday, 27 July
10 a.m. Consideration of Ireland (CAT/C/IRL/2)
3 p.m. Replies of Paraguay
Friday, 28 July
10 a.m. Closed meeting
3 p.m. Replies of Ireland
Monday, 31 July
Closed meeting
Tuesday, 1 August
United Nations holiday
Wednesday, 2 August
Closed meeting
Thursday, 3 August
10 a.m. Consideration of Panama (CAT/C/PAN/4)
3 p.m. Closed meeting
Friday, 4 August
10 a.m. Closed meeting
3 p.m. Replies of Panama
Monday, 7 August
Closed meeting
Tuesday, 8 August
Closed meeting
Wednesday, 9 August
10 a.m. Follow up to articles 19 and 22 and to reprisals
11.30 Closed meeting
3 p.m. Closed meeting
Thursday, 10 August
Closed meeting
Friday, 11 August
10 a.m. Public closing of the session
3 p.m. Closed meeting


For use of the information media; not an official record

CAT17.013E