Committee against Torture to hold forty-fourth session in Geneva, from 26 April to 14 May 2010

Committee against Torture

Experts to Consider Reports of France, Cameroon, Jordan, Switzerland, Syria,
Liechtenstein and Austria and Replies of Yemen

The Committee against Torture will meet at the Palais Wilson in Geneva from 26 April to 14 May 2010 to examine measures adopted by France, Cameroon, Jordan, Switzerland, Syria, Liechtenstein, Austria and Yemen to prevent and punish acts of torture. Representatives of the eight countries are expected to come before the Committee to defend national efforts to implement the rights enshrined in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

At the first meeting, which starts on Monday, 26 April at 10 a.m., the Committee will hear an update on developments in human rights and other areas of concern to the Committee by a representative of the Secretary-General. It will also swear in a new member and elect a new Bureau before adopting its agenda and programme of work for the session.

During the course of its three-week session, in addition to examining the situation in the eight countries cited, the Committee will consider follow-up to State party reports and individual communications. It will also consider, in closed meetings, information appearing to contain well-founded indications that torture is systematically being practised in some States parties; and complaints from individuals claiming to be victims of a violation by a State party of the provisions of the Convention. The Committee will also meet in private session with representatives of non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions from States whose reports are being examined at this session.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, 11 May, the Committee will hold a public meeting with the Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture. On the last day of the session, Friday, 14 May, the Committee will make public its concluding observations on the reports examined during the session, and will adopt its annual report.

Syria is presenting its initial report; Jordan is presenting its second periodic report; Liechtenstein is presenting its third periodic report; Cameroon is presenting its fourth periodic report; Austria is presenting its combined fourth and fifth periodic reports; France is presenting its fourth to sixth reports; and Switzerland is presenting its sixth periodic report. Yemen will be presenting its replies and comments to the provisional concluding observations that the Committee adopted at its forty-third session, when it examined the second periodic report of Yemen in the absence of a delegation. With regard to reports previously presented by these countries, the Committee's conclusions and recommendations can be found in the following documents: for the third periodic report of France, considered in 2005, see CAT/C/FRA/CO/3; regarding the third periodic report of Cameroon, examined by the Committee in 2003, see CAT/C/CR/31/6; for the initial report of Jordan, examined in 1995, see A/50/44, paragraphs 159 to 182; concerning the fourth periodic report of Switzerland, considered in 2005, see CAT/C/CR/34/CHE; for the second periodic report of Liechtenstein, examined in 1999, see A/54/44, paragraphs 197 to 225; with regard to the third periodic report of Austria, examined in 2005, see CAT/C/AUT/CO/3; and for the initial report of Yemen, considered in November 2003, see document CAT/C/CR/31/4.

Previous concluding observations of the Committee can be accessed on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Website document search page. For further information, including links to the reports to be considered at this session and the programme of work, please see the Committee’s Web page for the current session.

Background on the Convention and the Committee

The Convention, adopted unanimously by the General Assembly in 1984, entered into force on 26 June 1987. States parties to the Convention are required to outlaw torture and are explicitly prohibited from using "higher orders" or "exceptional circumstances" as excuses for acts of torture. The Convention introduced two significant new elements to the United Nations fight against torture: first, it specifies that alleged torturers may be tried in any State party or they may be extradited to face trial in the State party where their crimes were committed; secondly, under article 20, it provides for investigation of reliable reports of torture, including visits to the State party concerned, with its agreement, if the Committee receives reliable information, which appears to contain well-founded indications, that torture is being systematically practised in the territory of a State party.

Under article 21, a State party to the Convention may at any time declare that it recognizes the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications to the effect that a State party claims that another State party is not fulfilling its obligations under the Convention.

Under article 22, a State party to the Convention may at any time declare that it recognizes the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications from, or on behalf of, individuals subject to its jurisdiction who claim to be victims of a violation by a State party of the provisions of the Convention.

The Convention has been ratified or acceded to by the following 146 States: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen and Zambia.

The following 56 States have recognized the competence of the Committee under articles 21 and 22: Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela.

In addition, Japan, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States of America have recognized the competence of the Committee under article 21 only. Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Burundi, Guatemala, Mexico, Morocco, and Seychelles have recognized the competence of the Committee under article 22 only.

Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which entered into force on 22 June 2006, created a panel of 10 Experts – the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – and provided that States parties must create national bodies to visit places where persons are deprived of their liberty in order to prevent torture. The eleventh meeting of the Subcommittee on Prevention will be held from 21 to 25 June 2010.

Currently, 50 States have now ratified the Optional Protocol, which will lead to the increase of the membership of the Subcommittee to 25. The election of the 15 additional members will be held in October 2010, with the 25 members starting their first session in February 2011. The following States have ratified the Optional Protocol: Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Senegal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Uruguay.

Other United Nations Activities against Torture

In addition to preventive measures, the United Nations has taken action to come to the aid of torture victims. In 1981 the General Assembly set up the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Torture. The Commission on Human Rights and now the Human Rights Council repeatedly appeal to all Governments, organizations and individuals in a position to do so to contribute to the Fund in order to allow it to respond to the constantly increasing number of requests for assistance.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in resolution 1985/33, decided to appoint an independent expert, a Special Rapporteur, to examine questions relevant to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The mandate, which has subsequently been extended by the Human Rights Council, covers all countries, irrespective of whether a State has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The mandate comprises three main activities: transmitting urgent appeals to States with regard to individuals reported to be at risk of torture, as well as communications on past alleged cases of torture; undertaking fact-finding country visits; and submitting annual reports on activities, the mandate and methods of work to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.

Membership and Officers

The Committee's members are elected by the States parties to the Convention and serve in their personal capacity. The current members of the Committee are: Essadia Belmir (Morocco); Alessio Bruni (Italy); Felice Gaer (the United States); Luis Gallegos Chiriboga (Ecuador); Abdoulaye Gaye (Senegal); Claudio Grossman (Chile); Myrna Y. Kleopas (Cyprus); Fernando Mariño Menendez (Spain); Nora Sveaass (Norway); and Xuexian Wang (China).

Mr. Grossman is the Committee Chairperson and will open the forty-fourth session. At its first meeting, the Committee will elect a new Bureau from among its members, including a Chairperson, three Vice Chairpersons and a Rapporteur.

Provisional Timetable for Consideration of Reports

In ratifying or acceding to the Convention, States are obliged to submit reports on the measures they have taken to implement its provisions. States are invited to send representatives to attend the meetings during which their reports are considered. For this session, the Committee has drawn up the following provisional timetable for the consideration of reports:

Tuesday, 27 April

Morning France: combined fourth to sixth periodic reports (CAT/C/FRA/4-6)

Wednesday, 28 April

Morning Cameroon: fourth periodic report (CAT/C/CMR/4)

Afternoon France (continued)

Thursday, 29 April

Morning Jordan: second periodic report (CAT/C/JOR/2)

Afternoon Cameroon (continued)

Friday, 30 April

Morning Jordan (continued)

Afternoon Switzerland: sixth periodic report (CAT/C/CHE/6)

Monday, 3 May

Morning: Switzerland (continued)

Afternoon Syria: initial report (CAT/C/SYR/1)

Tuesday, 4 May

Morning Liechtenstein: third periodic report (CAT/C/LIE/3)

Afternoon Syria (continued)

Wednesday, 5 May

Morning Austria: combined fourth and fifth periodic reports (CAT/C/AUT/4-5)

Afternoon Liechtenstein (continued)

Thursday, 6 May

Morning Austria (continued)

Afternoon Yemen: replies to provisional observations on second periodic report (CAT/C/YEM/CO/2/Add.1)

Friday, 14 May

Afternoon: Public closing


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