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Experts of the Committee against Torture Welcome Iceland’s Systematic Approach to Prevent and Fight Torture, Ask about Solitary Confinement and the Rights of Intersex People

Meeting Summaries

 

The Committee against Torture this afternoon concluded its consideration of the fourth periodic report of Iceland on its efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture, with Committee Experts welcoming Iceland’s systematic approach to prevent and fight torture, and asking about solitary confinement and the rights of intersex people.

Huawen Liu, Committee Member and Co-Rapporteur for Iceland, welcomed Iceland’s systematic approach to prevent and fight torture. He said the Committee had expressed concern in 2008 about frequent and excessive use of solitary confinement, with it being far from exceptional practice. Could the delegation indicate the scale of the issue and what was being done to address this? What legal measures were in place to ensure that the decision to place people in solitary confinement was strictly necessary and proportionate, and to make sure this never applied to children or persons with mental health issues?

Mr. Liu noted that Iceland was a committed supporter of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights. However, non-governmental organizations had raised concerns regarding the rights of intersex people, reporting this group routinely faced severe discrimination and human rights abuses in the form of intersex genital mutilation and coercive sterilisation, taking place within the healthcare system. These interventions on intersex children’s bodies were allegedly common and pervasive. Could the delegation please indicate the real situation and measures to guarantee the rights of intersex people?

Responding to the questions on solitary confinement, the delegation said that the Icelandic authorities agreed that solitary confinement should only be used in cases that were necessary, with the interest of the investigation in mind, and where the police could prove there were no other means possible to guarantee evidence. The only instances that a court could grant solitary confinement in a pre-trial situation was when it was believed that the individual would impede the case, or to protect the individual or others. The revision of the legislation regarding solitary confinement was ongoing, and cases of children in solitary confinement would continue to be reviewed.

The delegation said that when it came to the rights of intersex individuals, the Act stated that permanent changes to genitals were prohibited without written consent. Intersex individuals were required to be provided with detailed information about procedures. Before a decision was made, both children and guardians should receive counselling and support. A special council had been established to provide intersex individuals with counselling and treatment. A bill was presented to parliament which aimed at providing more groups with protection from hate speech, including intersex individuals.

Harald Aspelund, Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, presenting the report, said that several steps had been taken in the last few years towards the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution. The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture was ratified in 2019, and the Parliamentary Ombudsman was entrusted to be the national preventive mechanism. The Ombudsman had already visited several places of detention and issued reports.

Mr. Aspelund said the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited Iceland for the fifth time in 2019, and several steps had been taken to adopt its recommendations, with one of the most serious concerns being healthcare services for prisoners. To respond to this, an action plan was created to strengthen healthcare for prisoners, with a special focus on mental health. Human rights were an ongoing process.

In concluding remarks, Mr. Aspelund extended his thanks to the Chair and Committee, saying the review would further strengthen the application of the Convention against Torture in Iceland. Iceland remained committed to improving human rights and would find appropriate solutions as new challenges arose.

Claude Heller, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation of Iceland, saying that a comprehensive and detailed assessment of the situation had been provided. He thanked the delegation wholeheartedly for their participation and hoped they had a safe return.

The delegation of Iceland consisted of members of the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour; the Prime Minister’s Office; and the Permanent Mission of Iceland to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The webcast of the Committee against Torture meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Committee against Torture’s seventy-third session can be found here.

The Committee will next meet at 10 p.m. on Monday, 25 April, to meet with the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture.

Report

The Committee has before it the fourth periodic report of Iceland (CAT/C/ISL/4) .

Presentation of Report

HARALD ASPELUND, Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, said the Icelandic Government was committed to working towards the protection and promotion of human rights of all individuals and the prevention of torture. He apologised for the delay in submitting the report, saying that several steps had been taken to strengthen the reporting process, including the establishment of a special Government Steering Committee on Human Rights. Mr. Aspelund said the policy area of human rights had been transferred from the Ministry of Justice to the Prime Minister’s Office, meaning that both human rights and gender equality were now placed at the centre of the Government, with the intention to further facilitate human rights and equality mainstreaming throughout the administration. A comprehensive assessment of the human rights system was underway, with the plan to issue a green book by the end of the year.

Several steps had been taken in the last few years towards the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution, including the formation of a working group in 2021. Preparation was already underway within the Prime Minister’s Office, with the plan to present a bill on this institution in 2023. Additionally, Iceland had ratified several human rights conventions over the last few years, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, among others. The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture was ratified in 2019, and the Parliamentary Ombudsman was entrusted to be the national preventive mechanism. The Ombudsman had already visited several places of detention and issued reports.

Work was underway to amend the Patients’ Rights Act to set a strong legal framework for the procedures in cases of involuntary measures within the health care setting. Police stations, prisons and the Ministry of Justice had taken several steps to respond to the recommendations of the Ombudsman, including the implementation of a special condition and risk assessment for arrested individuals.

Mr. Aspelund said that several steps had been taken in recent years to improve legal safeguards within the justice system, including a new act on the execution of sentences, allowing some prisoners the right to exercise their sentences in the form of unpaid community service. The Ministry of Justice was also working on measures to reduce the overall length of proceedings within the justice system.

In 2020, the Police Act was amended in order to strengthen and increase the efficiency of the Police Supervisory Committee, which was established in 2017 to handle complaints against the police. The Committee now had the authority to assess each complaint against a police officer individually and deliver a reasoned opinion.

The Government was aware of the criticism regarding the use of solitary confinement in pre-trial detention. These concerns were being taken seriously and

the legislation and procedures were being examined with a view to strengthen the safeguards and to ensure that these were exceptional measures.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited Iceland for the fifth time in 2019, and several steps had been taken to adopt its recommendations, with one of the most serious concerns being health care services for prisoners. To respond to this, an action plan was created to strengthen health care for prisoners, with a special focus on mental health.

Regrettably, gender-based and sexual violence continued to remain one of the greatest human rights challenges globally; it had deepened during the pandemic and the Government was committed to combatting all its forms. The Government was also committed to combatting all forms of gender-based and sexual violence, and had introduced several policies, including amendments to the definition of rape, and new provisions on stalking, amongst others.

The Icelandic Government was committed to tackling all forms of human trafficking and had strengthened legislation in this area. Although much progress had been made, challenges remained. The advancement of human rights was an ongoing process, and Mr. Aspelund said he looked forward to hearing the questions from the Committee.

Questions by Committee Experts

HUAWEN LIU, Committee Member and Co-Rapporteur for Iceland, said the Committee appreciated the efforts that the State party had made and the significant progress since the last report, including the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention in 2019 and the setting up of the national preventive mechanism. He welcomed Iceland’s systematic approach to prevent and fight torture. Standards and conditions of prisons were being improved. Mr. Liu said that within the Icelandic criminal legislation, there was no special provision concerning the concept of torture. It was useful to have a specific definition of torture in the law, which was conducive to understanding the seriousness of the crime. Subsequently, this affected statistics for torture and awareness raising on the seriousness of torture. Mr. Liu said he looked forward to the future establishment of a National Human Rights Institution, compliant with the Paris Principles. Was the Parliamentary Ombudsman sufficiently staffed and funded?

Mr. Liu said that in 2008, the Committee expressed concern about frequent and excessive use of solitary confinement, with it being far from exceptional practise. The Icelandic legal framework allowed for up to four weeks of continuous solitary confinement for those in pre-trial, with an unlimited amount for those who were incarcerated for 10 or more years. Prolonged solitary confinement constituted torture or other ill-treatment. Could the delegation please indicate the scale of the issue and what was being done to address it? What percentage of those awaiting pre-trial were placed in solitary confinement each year? What legal measures were in place to ensure that the decision to place people in solitary confinement in custody was exceptional, strictly necessary and proportionate, and to make sure this never applied to children or persons with mental health issues?

Concerning healthcare for prisoners, there was still no prompt medical screening of newly arrived prisoners. They had extremely limited access to psychiatric care. Drug use continued to be a major challenge and needed a comprehensive strategy. What efforts had been made by the Icelandic authorities to secure the necessary human and financial resources for the prison system? Mr. Liu called on the Icelandic authorities to increase their efforts of developing psychiatric care within the community. Were the nursing staff in psychiatric establishments trained in appropriate ways? Iceland had been recommended to amend the legal competence act.

Mr. Liu acknowledged that Iceland and other Nordic countries were the pioneers of gender equality. Substantial equality had been achieved within the Icelandic system, acknowledged by the gender equality index. However, there were challenges, including during the pandemic, where reports of domestic violence in Iceland had risen. Could the delegation indicate if this was true? A survey revealed that one in four Icelandic women had been raped or sexually assaulted during their lifetime, with only 12 per cent of victims pressing charges. How could these results be understood?

How was the Government providing support to migrant women in abusive relationships and keeping up efforts for assisting and empowering these women? According to a report, people with disabilities were much more likely to be subjected to violence. What was the Government’s stance on this, especially on violence against women and girls with disabilities?

Mr. Liu noted that an independent migrant review board had been established. An interpreter needed to be available for asylum seekers during their application process. What were the guarantees of individual assessment for individual needs? There was concern about repeat applications. What kinds of claims warranted repeat applications?

Information from civil society said that Iceland failed to protect migrant workers against systematic exploitation. Mr. Liu said that despite the progress achieved on trafficking, some issues continued to give rise to concern. Could the delegation please indicate the measures that the authorities had taken to prevent trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation; improve the identification of victims of trafficking; and adopt a specific legal provision on the non-punishment of victims of trafficking for their involvement. What were current and future strategies for anti-human trafficking campaigns?

Mr. Liu noted that Iceland was a committed supporter of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights. However, non-governmental organizations had raised concerns regarding the rights of intersex people, reporting that this group routinely faced severe discrimination and human rights abuses in the form of intersex genital mutilation and coercive sterilisation, taking place within the healthcare system. These interventions on intersex children’s bodies were allegedly common and pervasive. Could the Committee please indicate the real situation and measures to guarantee the rights of intersex people?

BAKHTIYAR TUZMUKHAMEDOV, Committee Member and Co-Rapporteur for Iceland, said he shared Mr. Liu’s concern regarding the absence in the Icelandic legislation of a concise and uniform definition of torture conforming to the Convention. Mr. Tuzmukhamedov asked about the independent monitoring committee – the Police Supervisory Committee - that oversaw the functions of the police. Could complaints go straight to the Committee? He asked for information on the status, terms of reference, composition, and funding of the Committee? If abuses were found, what would the Committee do? The report stated that “national law was interpreted in accordance with international law”. Did that mean that an international treaty like the Convention would take precedence over a domestic statute? Did the law on ratification transform the Convention into part of domestic law? The report discussed activities of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, without being specific. Could more details be provided?

It was noted that prison wardens were authorised to use force under certain conditions. What were the means and tools permitted under that legislative provision? Which authority made the decision on the use of force, and how would that authority be held accountable for an abuse of force? Mr. Tuzmukhamedov said police officers were now educated in civilian universities, along with institutions where they acquired specialist skills and knowledge. Could the delegation confirm this? Was respective training provided to military personnel, as well as to personnel who were deployed to international missions?

Could the delegation provide information about pandemic-imposed circumstances being considered in prisons, and other locations accommodating detained persons? How did social care institutions cope with the pandemic? Were they forced to close and what had happened to patients? If they closed, had the institutions re-opened?

NAOKO MAEDA, Committee Member and Observer-Rapporteur for Iceland, asked about non-refoulement in the Foreign Nationals Act of Iceland, saying that the Convention against Torture and the Refugee Convention limits or exceptions of non-refoulement principles were not totally the same.

It was understood that a temporary residence permit was given in the context of subsidiary protection, although it was different from refugee status; was it feasible to renew this permit? Could examples be provided of individual case assessments? Could the delegation give a concrete explanation on the definition of repeat applications? The Appeals Board was authorised to suspend legal effects in such cases where the decision was brought before Icelandic courts for reasons deemed justified. What was deemed as “justified reasons”.

Regarding the time limit for filing a review for suspension, when a request for rapid procedure was denied, legal proceedings should be instituted within seven days from the date of the denial. Could the delegation provide any reasons for the seven-day or five-day rule to be applied? What role had been played by the Icelandic Red Cross as a result of the agreement stipulated in the report?

A Committee Expert asked about the outcomes of legislative revisions in practice. Could the State party provide statistical data on outcomes of asylum requests?

One Committee Expert asked about the gap between physical violence and the definition of torture in the Convention, which covered physical and mental pain. Were there provisions in Icelandic law which captured the peripheral effects?

A Committee Expert congratulated the delegation for being composed mainly of women. The Expert asked if there was a time limit concerning the establishment of the National Human Rights Institution in Iceland?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation responded to the questions on the definition of torture, saying that the Icelandic Constitution clearly stated that no one must be subjected to torture. It was stressed that in the preparatory work to the Constitution, a special reference was made to the United Nations Convention on Torture. This meant that in the context of torture under the Constitution, this issue would be addressed with the Convention in mind. The Penal Code contained special provisions criminalising offences committed in a penal capacity. It was the view of the Icelandic Government that the act of torture was sufficiently covered, however the recommendations of the Committee would be considered, and this was an issue that the delegation would continue to review and address.

On the National Human Rights Institution, the delegation said that work had begun on a bill for this institution in 2018, however, no allowance was made for such an institution in the fiscal plan, and plans had not been developed further. A special working group was formed in 2021, to seek ways to establish a National Human Rights Institution within the parliamentary budget. The newly elected Government guaranteed that sufficient funding for this would be provided, and preparations were now underway in the Prime Minister’s office with the plan to present a bill in 2023.

Responding to the questions on solitary confinement, the delegation said that according to legislation, upon arrest the police could contain a suspect for 24 hours before they were obligated to bring that person before a court. The Icelandic authorities agreed that solitary confinement should only be used in cases that were necessary, and only with the interest of the investigation in mind, and where the police could prove there were no other means possible to guarantee evidence. It was always the role of the prosecutor to estimate whether all legal requirements were met, before claiming a court order for solitary confinement.

The only instances that a court could grant solitary confinement in a pre-trial situation was when it was believed that the individual would impede the case, or to protect the individual or others. The revision of the legislation regarding solitary confinement was ongoing. It was always the obligation of the judge to say whether it was possible to use a less severe remedy than solitary confinement. Cases of children in solitary confinement would continue to be reviewed.

The delegation said that detainees were given a medical examination at the start of their sentence and were entitled to the same healthcare rights as the general public. The Icelandic Government had taken serious steps towards increasing healthcare for prisoners, including through the establishment of a national action plan and a working group. Key goals included increased mental healthcare in prisons, and the establishment of a mental healthcare team within the prison system. The Ministry viewed the issue of mental health in prison as a serious concern with the goal of integrating this into the public healthcare system. A doctor should always examine a prisoner being put in solitary confinement, and if possible, should visit these prisoners daily.

Gender-based violence was a priority for the Icelandic Government, with action plans in place to tackle this problem. Measures to prevent gender-based violence included campaigns, programmes, material in curricula, support programmes for perpetrators and different measures to encourage guidelines within the relevant institutions. An action plan was underway on the handling of sexual offences within the justice system, spearheaded by a working group, comprised of experts from the Ministry of Justice, the police, the judiciary and the courts among others. The actions from the plan were allocated to the various units of the justice system, and implementation of the actions were well advanced. Police had received increased funding to increase the quality of investigations and to expedite the handling of cases, with good results achieved so far.

A plan which focused on awareness raising, response actions and empowerment was developed in conjunction with non-governmental organizations and different bodies throughout the country to provide support to victims of violence. The actions which required collaboration across Ministries were consistent with the Government’s current pledge to combat violence in society. A preventative programme for sexual violence had also been implemented in schools. In terms of the prevention of violence during the pandemic, extra funding had been put aside to address this issue. A risk assessment was carried out by the police in all cases of domestic violence, to assess the imminent danger of violence in each case, and to develop a relevant action plan, including measures such as restraining orders which would be ordered by the police. This was done to ensure that the perpetrators could not reach the victims, if the police believed that this was the correct approach.

Concerning human trafficking, the current measures were presented in 2019 – the Government’s third action plan in this area. A working group was tasked with overseeing the implementation of the measures outlined in the plan, including prevention, protection and prosecution. Assistance had been provided for victims of human trafficking. Guidelines had been published for the police when it came to procedures of human trafficking, and changes had been made to the Penal Code to broaden the field of protection in this area. Consultants were utilised to advise the authorities when it came to identifying specific human trafficking cases. Campaigns had been created in conjunction with the Red Cross, aimed at the victims of human trafficking. A conviction of human trafficking, due to the exploitation of labour, had been made for the first time in 10 years in Iceland.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman had been provided with additional funding to ensure he was able to fulfil his role. Nine visits had been conducted since 2018 to prisons, psychiatric wards, and treatment centres for juveniles, which were then followed up by reports. As the Ombudsman had visited most facilities in Iceland and done his job very well, authorities had no reason to believe the Ombudsman was underfunded. The Government took the role of the Ombudsman very seriously and was committed to implementing his recommendations. The Ombudsman had made some recommendations, including regarding the custody procedures of the metropolitan police station, recommending the involvement of healthcare workers prior to incarceration. A working group had been appointed to implement the recommendations made by the Ombudsman.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman visited several psychiatric wards in 2018 and 2021 and made recommendations in certain areas in need of improvement. To respond to these recommendations, the Patients’ Rights Act was being reviewed, under the banner of involuntary treatment. The hospital had reviewed its processes with the recommendations in mind and made a distinction between cases of therapeutic admission and medical admission.

The Ministry of Health had set forth an action plan within parliament for a reform of the mental health services in one of the hospitals. A bill was being prepared to clarify the legal framework for individuals in secure care, who had been found guilty of a crime but were acquitted due to their mental capacity, with the objective to ensure their safety and appropriate treatment. Following the Ombudsman’s visit to the juvenile treatment centre, a plan had been established to ensure educational materials were in place at the centre regarding the use of coercion and force.

Responding to the questions raised around migration, the delegation said that in 2021 there were 871 applications for asylum in Iceland, increasing to over 1,200 this year. In the case of subsequent applications, a plan was in place to allow those who had already applied to have their cases re-examined based on new data. The time to appeal an application decision was 15 days. The Asylum and Immigration Appeal Board was an independent body, and Board members had expertise in the field of immigration and refugee law. In Iceland all applicants for asylum had the right to a legal aid spokesperson, and from 1 May, independent lawyers would provide all applicants with a legal aid spokesperson. When an unaccompanied child applied for asylum in Iceland, child protection was called in and was responsible for the child’s need. Those under the age of 15 were placed in foster care, and those 16 or 17 were housed in a reception centre with services provided by child services.

Allegations of inappropriate conduct within the police were taken very seriously. In 2014, a professional council was established to address complaints on discrimination, gender-based violence and bullying, with police employees able to contact the council directly with these complaints. Police employees were encouraged to seek the services of psychologists if required, which were free of charge. Five of the 10 police commissioners in Iceland were women, including the District Commissioner of the Icelandic police, with the number of women in the police force growing significantly. A committee was established which received direct complaints from citizens who felt they had been mistreated by the police. Those who had been convicted could also contact the committee and ask for a review of their case. One of the main goals of the committee was to ensure that complaints were systematically registered and dealt with, and the delegation believed this had been successful.

Regarding the use of force in prison, the delegation said that prison staff could use force in certain situations, including self-defense, or preventing a prisoner from harming themselves, or in the case where orders needed to be carried out immediately. The tools of force available to prison guards were handcuffs, bonds, mace and batons. Only those who had received training in the use of force were permitted to do so, and all instances needed to be recorded. A detainee was able to complain against a prison guard or prison employee, either orally or via forms, which were then handed to the director of the prison. The detainee would receive a formal response to the complaint, and all documents would be filed accordingly.

Speaking on general COVID-19 measures, the delegation emphasised that the Government’s response to the pandemic was aimed at minimising societal effects. A special team was established with stakeholders from all groups. Emphasis had been placed on increasing welfare contributions. All social and healthcare institutions maintained operations but had brief periods when visitations were limited. Measures were taken to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 within the prison system, including the limitation of day passes. Detainees were given further access to telecommunications to interact with their families and counteract the limits in visitation.

The delegation said that when it came to the right of intersex individuals, an Act stated that permanent changes to genitals were prohibited without written consent. Intersex individuals should be provided with detailed information about procedures. Before a decision was made, both children and guardians should receive counselling and support. A special council had been established to provide intersex individuals with counselling and treatment based on individuals. A bill was presented to parliament which aimed at providing more groups with protection from hate speech, including intersex individuals.

There were measures in place with a special focus on migrants. A centre had been established and a help line had been opened with information on violence and an online chat connecting with emergency services. Women and children could stay at women’s shelters when they could not stay at home due to violence, as well as those who had been raped, or victims of trafficking. Halfway houses were in place with minimal rent which offered women support for a better life. Several acts had been implemented for persons with disabilities. Regarding the practice of screening professionals in contact with children, Iceland had several measures in this regard. A person who had been convicted of a sexual offense was prohibited from working in schools, and in children’s sports. A person safeguarding the rights of unaccompanied minors was required to provide a clean criminal record.

The delegation said various measures had been taken to strengthen the position of vulnerable groups in the labour market. According to the act on temporary work agencies, the directorate of labour was entrusted with supervising that those who were in temporary work were paid the correct wages. The delegation said Iceland had no military, but the Icelandic coastguard fulfilled basic military functions and maintained a presence at the airport. The coastguard officers were well trained and had a strict code of conduct. Those who were deployed overseas received additional training under Frontex as required. No requests had been made regarding torture during an overseas deployment.

Questions by Committee Experts

HUAWEN LIU, Committee Member and Co-Rapporteur for Iceland, praised the high political will of the delegation and increasing efforts for implementation of the Convention against Torture. Regarding a definition of torture, the delegation said it was mentioned in the Constitution and covered by Icelandic law, but there was no general provision on torture. In many countries, after ratifying a new instrument, they needed to reconsider the legal system and concept. Mr. Liu recommended that Iceland have a specific definition of torture in criminal law. A new definition of human trafficking, based on the European Union Convention against Human Trafficking and the United Nations Protocol against Human Trafficking, was important.

Frequent visits to detention facilities should also be noted as an important focus. The numbers concerning 50 per cent of pre-trial detainees being placed in solitary confinement was a reminder of caution. Mr. Liu welcomed the review of legislation into solitary confinement; improvement of the laws and their implementation and a review of the system were all important. Statistics from 2016 to 2018 showed that 98.77 per cent of cases requesting solitary confinement were approved by judges, which was quite high. Updated data was requested. A doctor should always examine a prisoner who had been put in solitary confinement – was this after the solitary confinement or beforehand? Was a medical examination obligatory prior to such placement? What were the conditions of solitary confinement in institutions? Mr. Liu was concerned about specific training for police, prosecutors, and judges about the Penal Code, the new definition of rape, and how to deal with gender-based violence.

BAKHTIYAR TUZMUKHAMEDOV, Committee Member and Co-Rapporteur for Iceland, raised the issue of solitary confinement, saying the four-week period in existing law was in violation of the Mandela rules on the protection of the rights of persons in detention. How could the delegation explain that? What were the outcomes with redress and compensation received by victims of excessive use of force? How would the delegation describe the role of the Convention in the existing Icelandic legal system?

NAOKO MAEDA, Committee Member and Observer-Rapporteur for Iceland, asked about the Asylum Review Board. Was the Board an administrative body? How many cases had been logged, reviewed, and approved since the Board’s establishment? Was there just one Board composed of seven members, or seven teams on the Board?

A Committee Expert asked about legislation in the Act on Foreigners, requesting the delegation’s comments on the word “imminent” within the Act? Did the fact that the Ombudsman was a body belonging to the legislative branch inhibit his ability to speak to the judges?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said they agreed there was a need to revisit the definitions. The Penal Code had been changed to encompass a broader definition of human trafficking. On the issue of solitary confinement, the percentage of solitary confinement in pre-trial detention was around 50 per cent. The number of approvals among the judges was still very high – around 80 to 90 per cent. Of arrested people, 98 or 99 per cent were released within 24 hours, indicating that the assessment by prosecutors was very strict. If it was in the best interest of the person to be detained in another facility other than detention, this option existed, and was sometimes used in the case of patients who could not be around other prisoners. These options were assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Police and prosecutors were educated through national training centers, where an emphasis was placed on human trafficking, gender-based violence and domestic violence. The Government had begun a revision of the legislation on solitary confinement, and the four-week rule would be examined. It was clarified that no one could stay in pre-trial solitary confinement longer than 12 weeks. Rules were in place for compensation, when people were detained by police but were later not convicted by a court.

The delegation said that the Immigration Appeals Board was an independent administrative body. There were seven Board members and a larger number of staff who processed and prepared items for them. It was true that the Parliamentary Ombudsman was part of the legislative branch, and he did not oversee the courts. His main role was to oversee the executive branch. Regarding the 5-to-7-day rule on legislation, this had not posed a real problem in Iceland, but statistics on this would be obtained.

Regarding the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit, this was a misnomer and the Ministry had moved away from using this terminology. There used to be a database or a roster which deployments were based on. This had been phased out and now positions were advertised both internally and externally. North Atlantic Treaty Body Organization positions were also advertised in the same way. Iceland referred to the response unit as civilian secondments to the United Nations and civilian secondments to the North Atlantic Treaty Body Organization.

Concluding Remarks

HARALD ASPELUND, Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, extended his thanks to the Chair and the Committee, saying the review would further strengthen the application of the Convention against Torture in Iceland. This year was important for Iceland, as it had undergone the Universal Periodic Review in January, the review of its report by the Committee against Torture this week, and the upcoming review in May of Iceland’s report by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The advancement and promotion of human rights was an ongoing process. Iceland remained committed to improving human rights and would find appropriate solutions as new challenges arose.

CLAUDE HELLER, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation of Iceland saying that a comprehensive and detailed assessment of the situation had been provided. He thanked the delegation wholeheartedly for their participation and hoped they had a safe trip back.

 

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