UN rights expert urge States to comply with Convention against Torture

19 October 2010

The Chairperson of the United Nations independent committee of experts against torture today urged States to recommit themselves to the values of the global treaty that prohibits the practice, which, he stressed, cannot be justified under any circumstances and has to be eradicated.

“The Convention embodies very important values of humanity. Confessions extracted by torture cannot be used in judicial proceedings,” Claudio Grossman, who chairs the Committee Against Torture, told reporters at UN Headquarters after presenting its annual report to the General Assembly.

The UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was adopted by the General Assembly in 1984 and has been ratified by 147 States to date.

“Still today, 26 years after the adoption by UN Member States of the Convention Against Torture, we have not yet achieved our shared objective to eradicate torture and inhuman treatment,” said Mr. Grossman.

“The absolute prohibition of torture – a non-derogable obligation under the Convention which means that under no exceptional circumstances whatsoever can torture be justified – is not yet a reality in many States who have ratified the Convention,” he adds.

He called upon all UN Member States to say “no to torture; no to torture during emergency situations; no to torture by any means.”

The Convention provides that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

It also obliges States that have ratified the Convention to refrain from deporting or returning people to countries where they would face the risk of torture, and requires ratifying States to extradite or prosecute perpetrators of torture.

Under the Convention, victims of the scourge have the right to redress, including compensation.

In its recommendations to States parties, the 10-member Committee has repeatedly denounced the vulnerability of women in situations of armed conflict.

He expressed concern at the failure of States to comply with their reporting obligations under the Convention.

“Initial reports are the essential springboard for ongoing dialogue with States parties, and I call upon the 32 States which have not yet submitted their initial reports to do so in order for the committee to contribute to the realization of the convention,” Mr. Grossman said.

He also reiterated the Committee’s regret that only 64 out of the 147 State parties to the Convention have accepted its competence to examine individual complaints alleging violations of the Convention.

“The individual complaints procedure is an important tool for achieving the goals of the Convention by enabling victims of torture to present their cases before the international community. It also allows the Committee to apply the Convention to real-life situations,” Mr. Grossman stressed.

This year, the Committee determined that deporting people to countries where they run the risk of sexual violence amounts to a breach of the prohibition of deportation or return to countries where they would face the risk of torture.

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Torture still rife 25 years after adoption of treaty banning it, UN experts warn

Although 146 States of the 192 Member States of the United Nations ratified or acceded to the international convention outlawing torture, the practice is still rife worldwide 25 years after the treaty’s adoption, the UN Committee against Torture warned today.