The United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) became fully operational in 2022 again after suspending its work during much of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some effects of the pandemic remained as not only had CAT members suspended their work, other protection systems at regional and country levels reduced their actions and fell short in preventing torture and providing support to survivors. Moreover, unrest intensified, and so did the excessive use of force by the police. Given this backdrop, we see torture and other ill-treatment rise. As usual in crises, the most vulnerable to torture are women, children, migrants, indigenous peoples, LGBTIQ+ people and those deprived of liberty. But despite all this, the OMCT continued its work, and progress was achieved in 2022.
civil society organisations participated in CAT sessions in 2022
civil society organisation briefings were held before the CAT sessions
After almost two years of suspension, in 2022 we have also seen a fresh keenness on the part of civil society organisations (CSOs) to engage with the CAT, seeking its recommendations for protection and accountability in their countries. As the coordinator of CSOs participation in the country reviews, the OMCT assisted 128 CSO representatives in the 16 CSO briefings before the CAT. Together with our partners, we submitted 18 reports to the CAT before its country reviews, describing the on-the-ground realities of torture, arbitrary detentions, summary executions, enforced disappearances, highlighting groups most vulnerable to torture in 14 countries: Uruguay, Cuba, Kenya, Nicaragua, Palestine (confidential), Uganda, El Salvador, Chad, Somalia, UAE, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, Togo, and Benin. 149 recommendations from our reports with partners were taken up by the CAT in their Concluding Observations on these countries in 2022. The next step is the implementation of these recommendations at the national level.
After a period of suspended travel during the pandemic, the OMCT undertook seven missions to countries recently or currently reviewed by the CAT: Guatemala, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, El Salvador, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and the Philippines.
Ms. Ana Racu, member of the CAT, joined the OMCT missions to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in October 2022, following the latter’s review by the CAT in 2021. In Kazakhstan, the mission aimed to prepare Kazakh civil society and state bodies for the upcoming review by the CAT in 2023. In Kyrgyzstan, the government was supposed to implement the recommendations of the Committee on the national preventive mechanism, violence against women, and investigations of allegations of torture and ill-treatment by the end of 2022. To that end, the Kyrgyz Coalition against Torture and the OMCT, together with the Ombudsperson’s office, National Centre for the Prevention of Torture, and the OSCE Programme office in Bishkek, held a round table on their implementation.
reports submitted to the CAT
recommendations from the reports taken up by the CAT to the countries
Two thematic briefings before the Committee against Torture
In May, the OMCT’s Working Group on Indigenous Peoples and Torture in Latin America organised a thematic briefing for the CAT – where a central focus was the concept of collective harm incurred by acts of torture.
Then in July, the OMCT organised a second thematic briefing on the Impacts, urgent actions and lessons learnt on Covid-19 management in places of detention from the perspective of the UN Convention Against Torture, featuring the OMCT Covid-19 Crisis Action Group (CAG).
Absence of State representatives of Nicaragua
The State Review of Nicaragua took place in the absence of any State delegates, who refused to attend the Review of the Committee, calling into question its legitimacy and integrity. After intense advocacy by the OMCT and partners, the CAT jointly with the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) took the extraordinary decision to publish the confidential 2014 SPT visit report, which can improve national and international dialogues on torture and ill treatment in Nicaragua.