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Committee against torture (CAT)

How do States comply with international law?

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) monitors the implementation of States Parties’ obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The CAT was created in accordance with article 17 of the Convention against Torture. It is one of 10 treaty bodies attached to various human rights conventions.

***The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the functioning of the CAT. Both the spring and autumn session of 2020 have been cancelled. All State reviews originally scheduled in the 2020 spring session have been postponed to the spring session of 2022. Country reviews scheduled for the 2020 summer and autumn sessions have been postponed to the 2021 summer and autumn sessions. Keep following this page for updates on the next sessions. You can also read our OMCT blog and OMCT E-Bulletin. Additionally, you can browse our country pages to learn about the CAT status of any specific country.***

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT)

The UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) monitors the implementation of States Parties’ obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The CAT was created in accordance to article 17 of the Convention against Torture. It is one of 10 treaty bodies attached to various human rights conventions.

Membership

The CAT is composed of 10 independent experts serving in their personal capacity, and not as representatives of a State. They must have high moral standing and recognized competence in the field of human rights.

Committee membership is determined by States. Each member is nominated by a State Party to the Convention and elected by States Parties for a four-year term. They may be re-elected if re-nominated. In accordance with article 17, equitable geographical distribution and the usefulness of the participation of some persons having legal experience have to be taken into account.

As a member of TB-Net, an informal group of international NGOs and networks working in strategic partnerships with the UN treaty bodies, the OMCT promotes the importance of open, transparent and participatory nomination and election processes to the CAT as well as to the other nine UN Treaty Bodies. For this purpose, you can find all the complementary questionnaires submitted to the candidates and videos of those candidates on the TB Elections Webpage.

Functions

The CAT monitors the compliance of States with the Convention against Torture through the five following functions:

State Reporting (article 19)
The State reporting procedure is a compulsory monitoring mechanism under the Convention. A State party must submit an initial report within one year of the treaty coming into force for that State. Thereafter, as required by the CAT Convention, the CAT Committee requests reports every four years.

Civil society participation is vital for the effective functioning of the State Reporting Procedure. At various stages of the procedure, civil society organisations are invited to inform the CAT about the reality on the ground.

GUIDE

Please find here a guide for civil society organisations on how and when to engage with the CAT in the reporting cycle.

Inquiry procedure (article 20)
The CAT may undertake a confidential inquiry if it receives credible information indicating that torture is being systematically practiced in a State party. However, no inquiry can be take place if the State party has declared that it does not recognize the competence of the Committee provided for under article 20. Upon completion of the inquiry, and after consultation with the State party concerned, the CAT either includes a summary of the results in its annual report or, if the State party agrees, publicizes the full text of the report. The CAT has carried out ten inquiries since its establishment.

Considering inter-State communications (article 21)
A State Party may submit a communication to the Committee alleging that another State Party is not fulfilling its obligations under the Convention against Torture. This provision is applicable only when both States parties have specifically recognized the competence of the Committee in this area. To date, no Inter-State complaint has been submitted to the CAT.

Considering individual communications (article 22)
If a State party to the Convention against Torture makes a declaration under article 22, individuals may submit complaints regarding violations of the Convention by that State to the CAT. For detailed information on the Individual Complaints Procedure, see OMCT’s Handbook “Seeking Remedies for Torture Victims”.

Adoption of General Comments
The CAT has adopted four General Comments clarifying the scope and meaning of various articles of the Convention and the obligations of State parties.

CAT Sessions

The CAT meets three times per year in Geneva. Each session lasts two to four weeks.

Covid-19 alert

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the functioning of the CAT. Both the spring and autumn session of 2020 were cancelled and in the summer the CAT conducted a two-hour webcasted online meeting. All the State reviews that were originally scheduled have been provisionally been postponed to 2021. For any updates on the next sessions, please refer to the CAT webpage hereunder.

Next CAT sessions

The OMCT coordinates the participation of civil society

Starting in 2014, the OMCT has been the official coordinator of the participation of civil society organisations (CSOs) to the sessions.

We have an in-depth knowledge of the functioning of the CAT, its standards, procedures, and working methods. We:

  • Inform national CSOs ahead of time that their country will be reviewed;
  • Provide training on CAT reporting and support coalition building;
  • Submit joint alternative country reports;
  • Provide administrative, logistical and financial support to national CSOs to attend the CAT session;
  • Coordinate CSO activities, organise preparatory meetings and CSO briefings with CAT members, and mentor on advocacy opportunities with the CAT;
  • Organise local screenings of the country dialogues in select countries;
  • Support the follow-up actions, public outreach and campaigning at the national and international levels.
Civil society participation to the CAT sessions

Civil society organisations that have submitted written information to the CAT regarding a given State party can attend the sessions of the CAT in person in Geneva. They are requested to contact the OMCT, as the organisation coordinating NGO participation for the sessions, at the following email address: cat@omct.org and copy the Secretariat of the Committee at cat@ohchr.org, to confirm attendance at the NGO in-session briefings with the members.

Please inform the OMCT if civil society representatives with disabilities will attend a session, to ensure their safe participation with full attention to their needs.

Regarding accreditation, please refer to the Treaty Bodies accreditation page. Civil Society representatives are required to duly register through the online platform for accreditation (the link will be available on the web page of the session you wish to attend). It will take two working days for your request to be processed.

Please note that ECOSOC accreditation status is not required for the submission of written information or participation in the oral briefings.

CAT’s Protection against Reprisals

While CSOs are the key to the success of country reviews, denouncing torture at the CAT is also a high-risk activity in many countries around the world. That is why the Committee has recognized that working directly with its reporting and communications procedure can endanger civil society representatives.

In light of Article 13 of the Convention, which requires Governments to ensure that complainants and witnesses are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of their complaint or any evidence given, the CAT appointed in 2013 Rapporteurs to follow-up on any allegations of reprisals. When the CAT receives information about reprisals against civil society representatives in the framework of their work with it, the Rapporteur sends a letter to the Government representative in Geneva, raising concerns and asking for information on the case.

Staying up to date

OMCT E-Bulletin

OMCT Blog

During its 72nd session, to be held from 8 November to 3 December 2021, the Committee will consider the reports of Bolivia, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Serbia, and Sweden as well as the implementation of the Convention against Torture in Nigeria (in the absence of a State report).

CAT sessions and reports

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the CAT could not review any country in 2020.

The CAT meets three times per year in Geneva. Each session lasts two to four weeks.

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the functioning of the CAT. Both the spring and autumn session of 2020 were cancelled and in the summer the CAT conducted a two-hour webcasted online meeting.

All State reviews that were originally scheduled in 2020 for the Spring session have now been postponed to the spring session of 2022 and the country reviews that were scheduled for the 2020 summer and autumn sessions have provisionally been postponed to the 2021 summer and autumn sessions.

You can also follow OMCT's blog and OMCT E-Bulletin for our latest news about CAT.

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