Committee against Torture hears response of Monaco

AFTERNOON

23 May 2011

The Committee against Torture this afternoon heard the response of Monaco to questions raised by Committee Experts on the combined fourth and fifth periodic report of that country on how it is implementing the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Responding to a series of questions raised by the Committee members on Friday, 20 May, the delegation, which was led by Philippe Narmino, Director of Judicial Services of Monaco, said that in terms of the definition of torture, it was covered by other crimes such as grievous bodily harm, violence and other charges and they understood the importance attached by the Committee to this principle. The Criminal Code criminalized assassination by torture and there were other laws in the criminal code of procedure that penalized related crimes and civil servants were required to report any allegations of torture, ill-treatment, or abuse of torture or any other behaviour that was contrary to the law.

The convention between France and Monaco dated 1963 regarding the prison system outlined that people convicted of a crime in Monaco would be transferred to France where they would serve their time in a French prison under this bilateral agreement and were under the custody of French authorities. However, Monaco authorities did reserve jurisdiction in terms of parole and length of sentence. It had also been decided that Monaco authorities would visit prisons and prisoners, although there were few detainees from Monaco actually in French prisons. In terms of prisoners’ rights, it was explained to them that they could be transferred to a French prison and someone was brought in to explain their rights if they needed them explained in another language. Over the last 5 years 35 detainees had been transferred to France. Prisoner complaints had to be filed with the French authorities. Monaco had decided to have a house of arrest, a detention facility for people serving short sentences.

The delegation said that Monaco had made a number of improvements to the prison system including setting up a mother/child cell, improving contacts with the outside world for prisoners and increasing the number of medical visits. Most crimes committed in Monaco were by people who were passing through and did not live there, so the State provided access to a doctor as soon as possible even if the person did not live there and thus had no personal doctor to call. The maximum length of pre-trial detention was set out clearly in the criminal proceedings code and it could not go beyond 4 months, which was renewable, but the total time could not exceed 30 months and for criminal matters this could not exceed 4 years. Extradition could be refused if a crime was committed in Monaco, it was already adjudicated in Monaco or the crime had been committed in a third State. Countries requesting extradition from Monaco had to agree not to subject the extradited person to torture or other ill-treatment. On the other hand, the person to be extradited had to provide proof that they personally ran the risk of torture if they were extradited to another country.

The Committee will submit its conclusions and recommendations on the report of Monaco at the end of the session on Friday, 3 June.

As one of the 147 States parties to the Convention against Torture, Monaco is obliged to provide the Committee with periodic reports on the measures it has undertaken to fight torture.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 24 May when it will hear the response of Ireland to questions raised during the presentation of its periodic report this morning.

Response of Monaco

Responding to a series of questions raised by Committee Experts on Friday, 20 May, the delegation of Monaco said there was a deep involvement between Monaco and France. This had naturally led to many bilateral agreements. They reflected the shared intentions of these parties and could change. Their were political and economic bodies that had inherent responsibilities, but because it was a small space it did not reach the critical mass to set up certain institutions so they needed a realistic approach which often led to international cooperation, usually with France, to allow them to meet their goals.

In terms of the definition of torture, it was noted that the Committee wanted such a definition built into Monaco’s law and they would pass this request on to the Government. Torture was covered by other crimes such as grievous bodily harm, violence and other charges and they understood the importance attached by the Committee to this principle. The Criminal Code criminalized assassination by torture and there were other laws in the criminal proceedings code that penalized related crimes and civil servants were required to report any allegations of torture, ill-treatment, or abuse of torture or any other behaviour that was contrary to the law.

Instructions related to handcuffing had borne fruit and been respected. No case of torture or ill-treatment by police had been reported since the European Committee on Torture had paid a visit to the principality. Measures provided for the support of victims covered a range of aspects including the right to information and counselling on their personal situation. Judicial police officers orally informed and used all means available to notify victims of their rights, including their rights to reparations. They also gave them documentation, the content of which was approved by decree. Persons with disabilities that were victims of violence also had access to this information in a way that was adapted to their disability. They had also set up a section on minors and social protection in 2002 within the Safety and Security Directorate. They were also responsible for initiating all procedures involving children who were victims of violence.

The convention between France and Monaco dated 1963 regarding the prison system outlined that people convicted of a crime in Monaco would be transferred to France where they would serve their time in a French prison under this bilateral agreement and were under the custody of French authorities. However, Monaco authorities did reserve jurisdiction in terms of parole and length of sentence. It had also been decided that Monaco authorities would visit prisons and prisoners, although there were few detainees from Monaco actually in French prisons. In terms of prisoners’ rights, it was explained to them that they could be transferred to a French prison and someone was brought in to explain their rights if they needed them explained in another language. Over the last 5 years 35 detainees had been transferred to France. Prisoner complaints had to be filed with the French authorities. Monaco had decided to have a house of arrest, a detention facility for short sentences. The case of a British citizen who was transferred to France showed the advantages of such transfers.

The delegation said that Monaco had set up a mother/child cell, improved contacts with the outside world and increased the number of medical visits and these were all improvements that had been made in the prison system. The State had also required equipment for recording custody conditions. Most crimes committed in Monaco were by people who were passing through and did not live there, so the State provided access to a doctor as soon as possible even if the person did not live there and thus had no personal doctor to call. The maximum length of pre-trial detention was set out clearly in the criminal proceedings code and it could not go beyond 4 months, which was renewable, but the total time could not exceed 30 months and for criminal matters this could not exceed 4 years. The example of the case before the European Court of Human Rights was the only one that had been found valid out of more than 60 filed. Extradition could be refused if a crime was committed in Monaco, it was already adjudicated in Monaco or the crime had been committed in a third State. Requesting countries had to agree not to subject the extradited person to torture or other ill-treatment. The person to be extradited had to provide proof that they personally ran the risk of torture if they were extradited to another country.

The French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons provided assistance to Monaco in processing asylum applications, which were rare in the case of the principality in any case. But Monaco did not really have the resources to process these applications and deal with such matters.

The status of defence counsel lawyers were qualified to represent parties and plead in all the courts.
Lawyer trainees could not plead before the Supreme Court and the Court of Review. The right to remedy was not reserved to people domiciled in Monaco. This right was open to all persons and if they did not live in Monaco the only requirement was the selection of domicile with a lawyer in Monaco. Any person harmed by a harm or offence could file a civil suit and this included descendants of the injured person.

In 2009 Monaco signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and they were in the process of adopting the legal framework to implement it. The delegation said that with respect to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture Monaco only had one detention facility with 30 detainees and no cases of ill-treatment had ever been reported. With respect to children in conflict with the law, there were only 10 children in the detention facility there and they were not there more than 28 days. They had access to the best teachers in Monaco and twice the amount of exercise per day as adults.

Particular attention was paid to people who might have difficulties in accessing housing, such as migrants and their relatives. These people were few in number as migrants working in Monaco fully enjoyed the rights to education and healthcare. In terms of corporal punishment, the delegation said the law provided for the protection of children and prohibited violence against them including corporal punishment. Synergy between teachers and authorities was part of the plan to combat violence against children.

In Monaco there were many nationalities represented and many people living in France and Italy crossed the borders every day to come to work. Only 30 per cent of people employed in the public sector of the State were nationals of Monaco.

Concerning people suffering from mental disorders and involuntary hospitalization, the delegation said the State paid particular attention to automatic internment and judicial authorities had a brief period of time to reject or confirm such measures and no complaints had been lodged.

People who provoked violence based on race, sexual orientation, ethnic groups, language, religion or other traits could be imprisoned and fined. It did not make a difference whether the means used to commit this slander, whether speech, cries or threats in public places or meetings or printed text or pictures. There did not seem to be a need to create a national human rights institution at this point and they would work on strengthening the role of the mediator.

On the transmission of nationality, the delegation said this was possible today.

Questions by Committee Experts

ESSADIA BELMIR, the Committee Expert serving as Rapporteur for the report of Monaco, asked about people requesting refugee status who were turned back to France. The French Office of Refugees and Stateless Persons handled these requests, but what did this mean in practice? A person could find themselves in the administrative labyrinth in two States. Were people who were turned away from Monaco’s borders not being exposed to more complicated proceedings? Was their situation fully explained to them?

ABDOULAYE GAYE, the Committee Expert serving as Co-Rapporteur for the report, asked what the status of the mediator was because the delegation said this was why the State did not need a separate national human rights institution. What were the resources afforded to this body as well as responsibilities and powers? Could the delegation clarify its law on terrorism?

Committee Experts then made additional comments and raised some additional concerns, including whether the French office also had responsibility for withdrawing refugee status since they could also grant it. By granting refugee status, this also granted certain rights such the right to residency and work so did this decision to grant refugee status grant rights in both France and Monaco? Did people who had been transferred from Monaco to a French prison have access to consular protection? How was the treatment of prisoners in French jails monitored? One point that was not clear for a Committee member was the competence of the courts regarding torture. What was the situation of their competence for torture committed on the territory of Monaco?

Response by Delegation

Responding to additional questions raised, the delegation of Monaco replied that refugee status was the outcome of the French/Monaco agreement so the French Government intervened at the request of Monaco to give a negative or positive decision. This required investigations to gather information and it was a complicated and time consuming procedure which they did not have the resources for and which was why it was outsourced to the French Government.

Regarding transfer of detainees, it was true that the French/Monaco convention on the enforcement of sentences was developed bearing in mind the interest of the detainees themselves. It was important to separate the transfer of detainees from refugees from refoulement which were all different political regimes.

Turning to children in conflict with the law, the delegation said they tried to be practical and effective and they had a whole range of personalized and targeted measures monitored by social workers and judges to guarantee public safety and security and ensure the best interest of the minor.

The role of the mediator was to deal with issues before they became litigious. Any one could get in touch with the mediator if they had an issue with the State to try work it out before it went to trial. There were also professional disputes, for example people laid off because their jobs had been made redundant, as well as lodging and accommodations. Many cases were favourably received in good faith for a good follow-up.

The delegation said the Human Rights Unit of the Foreign Affairs Ministry had a dual role to follow through the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and to train people on these legal norms such as magistrates, police and other legal professionals. The delegation outlined numerous training seminars that had taken place and they even had trainings for high school students to educate citizens about their rights.

On legislation relating to terrorism, the delegation said that they had an appropriate setup relating to terrorism.

Turning to refugee status, the delegation said decisions made applied in the territory of Monaco so the delegation was not sure what rights this status conferred on someone if they then went to France. Persons in detention, whether persons on remand or convicted, were entitled to consular protection from their countries of origin and no one would dream of denying them those rights. The State was also working on better coordination with France in respect to detained persons, by making visits and submitting reports on these visits.

Briefly on the subject of corporeal punishment, the Government protected children from assault and the criminal code addressed this act. Repression was being enhanced to protect children from such acts with enhanced sentencing and a medical and social system that had been established in order to remove children from the risk of violence in the school or in the home. They ensured the best possible care for children who may have been the victims of violence.

Monaco did not feel that the Convention required universal competence, for example by pursuing torture committed outside the territory of Monaco. However, if someone guilty of committing torture was caught in Monaco they could be tried in Monaco’s courts and of course if someone committed such a crime in Monaco they would be subject to the jurisdiction of Monaco’s courts.

Questions by Committee Experts

ESSADIA BELMIR, the Committee Expert serving as Rapporteur for the report of Monaco, asked for clarification on how it worked when one State delegated certain authority to another State with regard to convicted persons and persons seeking refugee status.

Did the Human Rights Unit work with the mediator?

Response by Delegation

The delegation said that a distinction needed to be made between the request of refugee status which was a legal measure, whereas refoulement was a practical measure meant to protect public safety from someone who had committed a crime. Monaco was landlocked within French territory so it would be impossible to act in another manner in terms of processing refugee requests.

On the relationship between the Human Rights Unit and the mediator, the delegation said that the Human Rights Unit was different from the mediator, but sometimes they referred people to the mediator. Monaco has a small Government so the two departments could coordinate with one another.

There were many articles in the criminal code that listed torture and other forms of ill-treatment as aggravating circumstances to crimes. The delegation said they had solid legislation in this regard, their concern being that such acts ranked as crimes in all appropriate circumstances.

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