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7 November 2016

The Committee against Torture opened this morning its fifty-ninth session, hearing a statement by Paulo David, Chief of Section, Capacity Building and Harmonization, Human Rights Treaties Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopting its agenda for the session.

Mr. David stated that one of the outcomes of the treaty-body strengthening process was the Treaty Body Capacity Building Programme.  For the first time, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had a properly resourced one-office support function on engagement with the treaty bodies, and had a team operating across the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights headquarters and the field: 10 staff in 10 of its regional offices and six colleagues based in Geneva.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Publications Committee was finalizing a general treaty reporting manual and trainers’ guide, and had commenced work on treaty-specific training manuals and trainers’ guides on the two Covenants.  Some 170 State officials from 77 countries had become trained trainers on treaty reporting and part of a network of State officials within their sub-region.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had worked with Fiji, which had led to its ratification of the Convention, informed Mr. David.  Angola was another country where efforts were being made on the ratification of the Convention.

Mr. David said that the team of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was currently working with 14 countries on the effective functioning of their national mechanisms for reporting and follow-up.  The Guide suggested that it was fundamental that a national mechanism for reporting and follow-up should be standing and have dedicated, capacitated and continuous staff.  National mechanisms for reporting and follow-up had the potential to become one of the key components of the national human rights protection system, bringing international and regional human rights norms and practices directly to the national level.  Mr. David further informed that the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture every year capacitated over 1,000 specialized doctors, lawyers, psychologists, para-legal professionals, social workers and others to work in the field of the rehabilitation of victims of torture.  Since 2014, the Fund had been awarding an increasing portion of its available income to projects aimed specifically at building and strengthening the capacity of professionals providing direct assistance to victims of torture.

Jens Modvig, Committee Chairperson, praised the cooperative work on the Treaty Body Capacity Building Programme.  An Expert wondered what would be done to fill in the lacunae the Committee was facing vis-à-vis capacity building.  It was often the case that only one person in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs in various countries was in charge of coordinating reporting to a number of treaty bodies.  The limited capacities and needs of small States, especially Pacific islands, were brought up by another Expert.  Mr. David confirmed that the funding for the Programme had not taken away from the funding to support the work of the treaty bodies.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was trying to adapt its messages to small island States, but the Office did not want every country review to be conducted by video conference.   The capacity-building programme focused on those countries without the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights field presence; six train-the-trainers programmes had taken place thus far, it was explained.  The Secretariat said that efforts were being made to develop a free national tracking database system, which would be made available to Member States.  The OP-CAT Special Fund was currently not sufficiently funded, but there were hopes that, following a recent meeting in New York, States would start to contribute to it more actively.

The Committee then proceeded to adopt the agenda of the fifty-ninth session.

The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 8 November at 10 a.m., to start its consideration of the seventh periodic report of Ecuador (CAT/C/ECU/7).

During the session, the Committee will review reports of Ecuador, Finland, Monaco, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Turkmenistan and Armenia, as well as the situation of Cabo Verde in the absence of a report.

For use of the information media; not an official record