Committee against Torture Concludes Seventy-Seventh Session after Adopting Concluding Observations on Reports of New Zealand, Romania, Spain and Switzerland
The Committee against Torture this morning closed its seventy-seventh session after adopting its concluding observations on the reports of New Zealand, Romania, Spain and Switzerland on their efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Claude Heller, Committee Chairperson, said the seventy-seventh session was held from 10 to 28 July 2023. The Committee had adopted its concluding observations on the reports of New Zealand, Romania, Spain and Switzerland, and they would be available on the Committee session webpage in the coming days.
Concerning New Zealand, Mr. Heller said the Committee noted the numerous strategies, programmes and initiatives to reduce the disproportionately high number of Māori in the prison system and to improve their conditions of detention. It recommended that the State party increase its efforts to reduce the disproportionately high number of Māori in prisons and to address disproportionate re-offending rates between Māori and non-Māori. The Committee appreciated the measures taken by the State party to improve conditions of detention in general. It expressed its concern about reports that overcrowding, poor material conditions and staff shortages remained a problem in many places of detention and recommended that New Zealand continue its efforts to improve conditions of detention in all places of deprivation of liberty. It called on the State party to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission to provide victims of torture and ill-treatment in State care and in the care of faith-based institutions with full redress,
As for Romania, the Committee noted positive developments in the legislation of the State party. The Committee expressed its concern over continued overcrowding in prisons, psychiatric institutions and social care homes, along with the poor conditions that detainees, patients and residents experienced. It urged Romania to cease its use of “special intervention units” in prisons. The Committee called on the State party to investigate reports of torture and ill-treatment by border officials, including in the context of pushbacks of migrants seeking protection from its borders, and to prosecute alleged perpetrators. It also expressed its concern over legislative provisions which allowed families with children and other migrants in vulnerable situations, such as victims of torture, to be placed in immigration detention, and recommended that the State party refrain from detaining these groups in the context of migration and review its legislation in this regard.
On Spain, while acknowledging the efforts made by the State party in responding to the influx of migrants and asylum seekers arriving on its territory in recent years, the Committee voiced concern over reports denouncing the continued practice of summary or "hot" returns. The Committee urged Spain to investigate promptly and impartially any possible responsibility of members of the security forces during the police action in the reported incidents at the Barrio Chino border. It asked the State party to align its legislation and practice concerning solitary confinement with the Nelson Mandela Rules. The Committee further asked Spain to ensure that all asylum seekers and other persons in need of international protection who attempted to reach or arrive in the State party had access to fair and efficient refugee status determination procedures and non-refoulement determinations, and invited it to review its legislation and practices on border returns.
As for Switzerland, Mr. Heller said the Committee welcomed the establishment of the national human rights institution. It reiterated its concern that torture had not yet been integrated into domestic legislation as a specific crime with a generally applicable definition that corresponded to the definition in article one of the Convention. It called on Switzerland to take all appropriate steps to define torture as a criminal offence in national law, in full conformity with the Convention. The Committee was also concerned about reports that individuals held in federal asylum centres were subjected to ill-treatment and obstacles in access to justice. It called on Switzerland to ensure that all instances of alleged ill-treatment in federal asylum centres were promptly investigated in an independent and impartial manner and to establish independent, confidential and effective complaints mechanisms in all federal asylum centres and ensure victims obtained adequate redress and compensation.
Mr. Heller said that during the seventy-seventh session, the Committee examined 19 individual complaints and adopted four decisions on the merits and four decisions on admissibility. Additionally, 11 complaints were discontinued in accordance with the Committee’s Rules of Procedure. Mr. Heller noted that the Secretariat lacked sufficient human and financial resources to support the Committee’s work on individual complaints, which limited the number of complaints that the Committee could assess, an issue that was echoed by the Chairs of other treaty bodies.
The Committee continued its work under article 20, and its activities on follow-up under articles 19 and 22 of the Convention and in relation to reprisals during the seventy-seventh session.
Mr. Heller closed by expressing thanks to all stakeholders whose contributions had ensured that the session had been conducted successfully.
The Committee is scheduled to hold its seventy-eighth session from 30 October to 24 November 2023, during which it will consider the reports of Burundi, Costa Rica, Denmark, Egypt, Slovenia and an additional State to be announced at a later date.
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