OMCT E-Bulletin – May 2017
60thsession of the Committee Against Torture
This E-Bulletin is part ofOMCT’s “Convention Against Torture Programme”. OMCT mobilizes and coordinatesactivities of civil society organizations during the sessions of the UnitedNations Committee Against Torture (CAT). It facilitates the engagement of civilsociety by building coalitions, sharing information, ensuring timely andeffective report submissions, advising on advocacy opportunities and supportingeffective access to the CAT. Find out more on our work on our website.
Contents: What’s new / OMCT submissions/ Summaries of the CAT State reviews/ Next sessions / Stay up-to-date / We thank
During its 60th session (12 April – 17 May2017) the CAT considered the State reports of Afghanistan, Argentina, Bahrain, Lebanon, Pakistan and the Republic ofKorea. In accordance with Article 19 of theConvention Against Torture, every four years State Parties submit a report tothe CAT on any new measures taken to implement the Convention. These reportsare reviewed in public sessions, in which the respective State Party has a constructive dialogue with the CAT. The day before the consideration of the report, NGOsthat have submitted an alternative report can raise and discuss their concerns duringa private NGO briefing with the CAT. At the end of each session, the CAT publishes its “Concluding Observations”, which make specific recommendations for each State reviewed andissues for them follow up on within one year.
OMCT reception for CAT “members,friends and family” at N’vy Hotel on April 19
Discussion on the Draft Revised General Comment onnon-refoulement
On 28April 2017, the CAT held a general discussion on the draftrevised General Comment « on the implementation of article 3 of theConvention in the context of article 22 » with theparticipation of representatives of States Parties, UN entities and specializedagencies, NGOs and other interested organizations. Debates revolved around thescope of extra-territoriality of the Convention, diplomatic assurances inthe context of transferring a person from one State to another, the connectionbetween article 3 and extradition treaties, and procedural safeguards, remediesand rehabilitation to guarantee the principle of non-refoulement. Find ourjoint NGO report.
Alternative report onAfghanistan
Acoalition of four NGOs, led by the Civil Society and Human Rights Network (CSHRN)and with the support of OMCT,submitted a joint alternative report on Afghanistan. The joint report underscoresthe need to legally define and criminalize torture comprehensively in line withthe Convention. It denounces the prevalence of torture in detention of tortureby non-state actors particularly on women and girls, and of inhuman traditionssuch as Bachabazi – the enslaving and abuse of boys for sexual purposes. Full report.
Alternative reports onPakistan
OMCT contributed to twojoint alternative reports on Pakistan. One report, written in collaborationwith Justice Project Pakistan and Reprieve, denounces a number of violations: therecurrent use of torture on detainees; convictions to death penalty based onconfessions obtained under coertion; the absence of a definition of torture inPakistan’s legislation; poor prison conditions on death row; and the executionof juvenile in conflict with the law and mentally-ill persons. Fullreport.
The otherreport, submitted with the HumanRights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC),focuses on impunity and lack of investigation into allegations of torture andextra-judicial killings; enforced disappearances; violence against women andchildren; and prison conditions amounting to cruel, inhuman and degradingtreatment. Fullreport.
SUMMARIESOF THE CAT STATE REVIEWS
Alleged perpetrators of torture hold top government positions
Duringthe second periodic review ofAfghanistan, the Committee welcomed some legal andpolitical advances such as the establishment of the Afghanistan Independent HumanRights Commission (AIHRC) in 2002 or the adoptionof the National Plan on the Elimination of Torture. The Committee said it remainsconcerned about the prevailing impunity allowing individuals responsible forgross human rights violations to hold top government positions and recommendedthat laws providing amnesty be repealed and that all perpetrators be prosecuted.
Italso reflected on the many reports about serious torture and otherill-treatment of suspects, detained on national security grounds, while incustody of the National Directorate of Security or the Afghan national andlocal police. The situation is particularly worrisome in the Kandahar province,where GeneralAbdul Raziq, ANP Commander, as being widely suspected of complicity, ifnot of personal implication, in severe human rights abuses.
The Committee alsoraised concerns about detention within prisons, particularly about reports thatat Parwan (Bagram) detention facilities detainees are routinely tortured and haveseverely restricted access to their lawyers. The Committee also took note of reportsthat at least 160 children are detained just like adults, being punished ratherthan rehabilitated, and recommended that they be transferred to juvenile centresinstead.
TheCommittee also condemned the high prevalence of domestic violence againstwomen, as well as corporal punishment and death imposed by Jirga Courts, informalparallel judicial mechanisms which operate outside of the rule of law.
Other matters ofconcern included death penalty; the insufficient support given to the AfghanistanIndependent Human Rights Commission; the threatening of human rights defendersand activists; the harmful practices against children such as child marriagesand Bachabaazi, and the widespreaduse of forced confessions as evidence in trials.
Issues for follow-upare:
1. Ensure that all candidates for official executivepositions have not perpetrated any human rights violation.
2. Impartial investigation and punishment of all cases ofcoerced confessions.
3. Immediatemoratorium on executions and commutation of death sentences.
State of emergency in prisons due to overcrowding
During thereview of the State’s fifth and sixth reports, the Committeenoted that Argentina had adopted several laws and institutional initiatives toapply the Convention. Nevertheless, it regretted that key recommendations fromthe 2004 review, such as the creation of a national register on torture andill-treatment or the establishment of a National Mechanism of Prevention, hadnot been implemented.
Tortureand ill-treatment are still a common practice in places of detention at thehands of the security forces. Investigations are not being carried outefficiently, and victims are reticent to file complaints for fear of reprisals.The Committee recommended to establish a fully independent mechanism mandatedto receive and investigate complaints as well as a system to protect and assistvictims of torture and witnesses deprived of liberty.
The Committee pointed out the dramatic increase in the number ofdetainees since 2009 resulting in severe overcrowding and on-going degradationof conditions of detention. The situation in the Buenos Aires province has beenqualified as an « emergency ». In this regard the Committee recommendedthe development of a methodology to assess the capacity of prisons and bringthem in compliance with international standards. Concern was also raised aboutprolonged detention in police stations, the widespread use of solitaryconfinement, and the high number of deaths in custody.
Withregard to non-refoulement, theCommittee expressed concern about the recent decision of the Supreme JusticeCourt allowing extradition under diplomatic guarantees of persons in risk ofbeing tortured or killed upon return. It also referred to the 3,470 complaintsfiled in 2016 on cases of discrimination of migrants, Afro-descendants andtransgender persons, recommending the thorough investigation of arbitrarydetentions on discriminatory grounds.
Otherissues raised were the need to bring the definition of torture in the PenalCode in line with international standards; the use of violence and arbitrarydetentions by federal and provincial security forces against sociallymarginalized young people and minors; the high number of pre-trial detainees, andthe alarming increase in gender-based violence.
Issues tofollow-up are:
1. Investigate all complaints of death, torture andill-treatment by security forces
2. Create the National Prevention Mechanism
3. Establisha national register of complaints, investigations, prosecutions, penalties
Reports of torture of human rights defenders and journalists
During the review ofthe second and third periodic reportsof Bahrain, submitted 12 years after the consideration of its initial report,the Committee remained concerned about reprisals and alleged torture and ill-treatmentof human rights defenders, journalists and their families. The allegationsreceived include serious acts of intimidation, threats, revocation ofcitizenship, as well as arrests and arbitrary detention in retaliation fortheir work. Specific concern was expressed with regard to the situation of AbdulhadiAl-Khawaja, Naji Fateel, Nabeel Rajab, Abduljalil Al-Singace, Hussain Jawad andAbdulwahab Hussain.
TheCommittee further condemned the widespread acceptance of forced confessions asevidence in courts, even in cases where persons are sentenced to 25 years ofincarceration or the death penalty. Indeed, three persons were executed on 15January 2017 whose sentences are reportedly based on confessions obtained undertorture. The Committee urged Bahrain to ensure that evidence obtained throughany form of coercion or torture is inadmissible in all judicial proceedings andenact legislation for inquiries on allegations of torture when brought to theattention of the judges by the defendant or their counsel.
Regardingthe resumption of the application of the death penalty, the Committeerecommended the prompt re-establishment of a moratorium on the use of the deathpenalty and to consider in this context to pardon, reprieve and commutesentences for persons on death row.
Theexperts said they were concerned about the prevailing impunity of torturecrimes in Bahrain, as evidenced by the low number of convictions and sentences forperpetrators of torture resulting in, interalia, death that were not commensurate with the gravity of the crime.
Othermatters of concern included trials of civilians by military courts, violationsof fundamental legal safeguards for persons deprived of their liberty, poordetention conditions, treatment of minors while in arrest, and domestic andsexual violence against women, including marital rape.
Issues forfollow-up are:
1. Prompt re-establishment of a moratorium on the use ofthe death penalty
2. Regular visits of places of deprivation of liberty byindependent monitoring bodies
3. Accept thevisit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture
Initial report arrives over 14 years late
Lebanonsubmitted its initial report 14 years late, preventing the Committee fromperiodically reviewing the State’s compliance with the Convention since itsratification in 2000. Over 2012 and 2013, the Committee conducted aconfidential inquiry on Lebanon under Article 20 of the Convention including avisit to Lebanon (A/69/44, Annex XIII, paras 38 and 40).
During the review ofLebanon’s initial report, theCommittee called on the State to define torture in full conformity with article1 of the Convention. Moreover, it added the absolute prohibition of torture oughtto be incorporated into its legislation and that no exceptional circumstances shouldbe invoked as a justification of torture.
WhileLebanon articulated that torture is in no way a State policy, the Committeereferred to the consistent reports describing that security and military forcesroutinely use torture against suspects in custody, including children, toextract confessions or as a form of punishment. The Committee insisted that thelaw should explicitly prohibit the non-validity at court of evidence obtainedthrough torture. Furthermore, the Committee noted with concern that reportedly theseallegations are not adequately investigated and reiterated that where there isan allegation that the statement was made under torture, the burden of proofdoes not lie with the victim, but with the State. In general, the Committeeregretted the lack of information from Lebanon on complaints of torture andsubsequent investigations.
Whilst recognisingthe extraordinary efforts to accommodate over 1,5 refugees, the Committee isconcerned about the detention policy applied to asylum seekers and refugees formigration-related reasons. The Committee also pointed out that refugees hadreportedly been transferred contrary to the principle of non-refoulement under article 3.
Othermatters of concern were the prisons’ overcrowding and deplorable detention conditions;the lack of information on deaths in custody; trafficking in women and girlsand the abuses of domestic labour workers due to the kefala visa-sponsoring system, as well as other forms ofgender-based violence.
Issues forfollow-up are:
1. Define and criminalize torture according tointernational standards
2. Ensure access to fundamental legal safeguards
3. Establish the National Commission for Human Rights andthe National Preventive Mechanism.
4. Establish aninternal prison complaints system
Torture and impunity in the context of counter-terrorism efforts
Duringthis first review the Committee members expressed deep concern about the almostcomplete lack of criminal investigations and punishment of torture despiteserious allegations of widespread torture by the police. The Committee furtherregretted the fact that police are charged with investigating allegations oftorture committed by their own colleagues and that the Federal InvestigationAgency is not sufficiently independent.
Referringto Pakistan’s legislation, the Committee noted the absence of a definition oftorture that incorporates all elements of article 1 of the Convention andrecommended that the State Party adopt a comprehensive anti-torture bill.
The Committee further expressed concerns about Pakistan’scounter-terrorism legislation and the very broad powers the army has to detainpeople suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. Not only can militarycourts try civilians for terrorism-related offences, but suspects of terrorismcan be deprived of their liberty for up to three months without judicialoversight or the possibility of a habeaspetition andbe detained without trial of up to a year for being suspected of involvement inthe activities of a proscribed organization (1997Anti-terrorism Act (ATA), 1997). Provisions of the Actions in Aidof Civil Power Regulations 2011 provide for retroactive immunity for torture in internment centres by members of the military and paramilitary forces. It thus urged Pakistan to repeal or amend both texts.
Theexperts also noted the inadequate investigations into allegations that militaryand paramilitary forces and intelligence agencies have been implicated in asignificant number of cases of extra-judicial executions, torture, and enforceddisappearances.
Othermatters of concern included access of justice for victims of torture, violenceagainst women, human trafficking, respect of the principle of non-refoulement, conditions ofdetention, violations of fundamental legal safeguards for persons deprived oftheir liberty, the inability for the National Commission for Human Rights tocarry out its mandate fully and in an effective and independent manner andredress.
1. Prosecute and punish police officers who engage intorture with penalties that are commensurate with the gravity of the crime oftorture
2. Establish and effectively operate police oversightbodies
3. Investigateall allegations of torture or ill-treatment promptly, thoroughly andimpartially, and duly prosecute and punish the perpetrators
Republic of Korea
Excessive use of force by law enforcement officials
During thethird review of the Republic ofKorea, the Committee members expressed concern about the excessive use of forceby law enforcement officials, especially during demonstrations such as 2008Candlelight Rally and 2015 Peoples’ Rally. One person (Mr. Baek Nam-Gi) died asa result of being hit at the head by a blast from a police high-pressure watercannon. The Committee highlighted the lack of access to medical assistance tosome of the wounded detained demonstrators and the lack of accountability forthe injuries and death.
Theexperts noted with concern that death sentences continue to be imposed bycourts despite the effective moratorium on the application of the death penaltysince 1977. By the end of 2016, 61persons were on death row. The Committee urged the State to abolish the deathpenalty and commute all death sentences to prison terms.
Concernwas raised about the significant number of suicides and sudden deaths incorrectional facilities. The Committee said it was seriously preoccupied thatmost deaths in custody are due to the absence of adequate medical treatment forinmates suffering from diseases and that the suicide cases may be a result ofcoercive investigation procedures by police and prosecutors. The Committeerecommends that the Republic of Korea carry out an in-depth study in to thecauses of sudden deaths and suicide in its correctional facilities.
Inaddition, the Committee is worried about reports of many cases of violence,including sexual, physical and verbal abuse among the military, which haveresulted in deaths. “Guardhouse detention” as a disciplinary measure isalarming, as a soldier can be detained for 15 days without a warrant, basedonly on the decision of the commanding officer.
Othermatters of concern included the absence of a definition of torture in the penallegislation conform to article of 1 in the Convention, violence against women,violence against migrant workers, corporal punishment against children,violations of fundamental legal safeguards for persons deprived of theirliberty, involuntary hospitalization in psychiatric institutions.
Issues forfollow-up are:
1. the outcomes of the investigations of the death of Mr.Baek Nam-Gi and of any proceedings in relation to the Sewol Ferry Accident
2. the closing of the remaining “substitute cells”
3. theestablishment of the office of military Ombudsman as an independent entity
61thsession of the CAT: 24 July – 11 August 2017
Consideration of StateReports: Antigua and Barbuda, Ireland,Panama, and Paraguay
> 26 June 2017:Deadline for NGO submissions for the State report reviews
62thsession of the CAT: 6 November – 6 December 2017
Consideration of StateReports: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria,Cameroon, Italy, Mauritius, Republic of Moldova, Rwanda, and Timor-Leste
Lists of Issues prior to reporting: Austria, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Malawi, Serbia,and Somalia
Lists of Issues: Mauritania and Tajikistan
> 26 June 2017:Deadline for NGO submissions for the List of Issues and List of Issues Prior toReporting
> 9 October 2017:Deadline for NGO submissions for the State report reviews
63thsession of the CAT: 16 April –11 May 2018
Consideration of StateReports: Belarus, Chile, Czech Republic,Norway, Qatar, and Tajikistan
Lists of Issues prior to reporting: Andorra, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Jordan, and Liechtenstein
> 22 January 2018:Deadline for NGO submissions for the List of Issues Prior to Reporting
> 19 March2018: Deadline for NGO submissions for the State report reviews
OMCT Blog:Engaging with the UN Committee against Torture
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This E-bulletin has been produced withthe financial assistance of the European Union, Irish Aid, Swiss FederalDepartment of Foreign Affairs and the Sigrid Rausing Trust. The contents ofthis document are the sole responsibility of OMCT and can under nocircumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union,Irish Aid, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs or the Sigrid RausingTrust.
Nothing can justify tortureunder any