Committee against Torture Closes Seventy-Fourth Session after Adopting Concluding Observations on Botswana, Nicaragua, State of Palestine, and the United Arab Emirates
The Committee against Torture this morning closed its seventy-fourth session after adopting its concluding observations on the reports of Botswana, Nicaragua, State of Palestine, and the United Arab Emirates.
Going over some of the main aspects of the concluding observations, Claude Heller, Committee Chairperson said, on Botswana, that the Committee regretted that the State party had not yet been able to incorporate the Convention against Torture and other human rights treaties to which it was a party into law. The Committee was also concerned that the State party had yet to establish a definition of torture as a specific offense, and that the death penalty continued to be practiced for certain offences. The Committee urged the State party to establish torture as a specific offence, to commute all death sentences already handed down, and to establish a moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to its abolition.
On Nicaragua, the Committee regretted authorities’ refusal to submit written replies to the list of issues and the absence of the State party’s delegation during the scheduled dialogue. Mr. Heller said that the letter sent by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua to the Chair of the Committee, had included unacceptable statements that challenged the integrity of the Committee.
The Committee was particularly concerned about the lack of effective procedural safeguards provided to detained persons in the context of the protests initiated in April 2018. The Committee also expressed concern at the criminalization of these protests and acts of repression carried out against protesters. The Committee urged Nicaragua to guarantee legal safeguards for all detainees, and to prevent acts of repression and violence against human rights defenders, journalists, and political opponents. It further urged Nicaragua to ensure that conditions of detention were in full compliance with United Nations standards.
On the State of Palestine, the Committee noted that torture was explicitly prohibited under Article 13.1 of the Palestinian Basic Law, and that a comprehensive definition of torture was included on the National Commission against Torture. However, the Committee expressed concern that torture was considered a misdemeanour, and urged the State party to ensure that acts of torture were punishable by appropriate penalties. The Committee also expressed concern that persons in custody, including in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, were subjected to torture or ill-treatment, and that the mechanisms established by the State party to receive and investigate complaints of this nature, failed to protect complainants and witnesses. The Committee recommended that the State party immediately undertake investigations into complaints through an independent mechanism and punish offenders with appropriate penalties.
The Committee further expressed concern about allegations of excessive use of force in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It recommended that the State party ensure that investigations were undertaken into all allegations, that perpetrators were prosecuted, and that victims or their families received full redress. In addition, the Committee expressed concern regarding the continuous use of administrative detention by the State party under the Jordanian Crimes Prevention Act of 1954 in the West Bank. It was also concerned that administrative detention was used against women and girls who were victims of violence. The Committee recommended that the State party amend or repeal the Jordanian Crimes Prevention Act of 1954 to abolish the practice of “protective custody” in cases of gender-based violence and ensure that all detainees were afforded all fundamental procedural safeguards. It also recommended that the State party develop and implement alternatives to administrative detention.
On the United Arab Emirates, the Committee expressed concern that no definition of torture had been incorporated into the State party’s legislation, and that legislation regulating torture was insufficient. It urged the State party to bring its legislation in line with the Convention and ensure that the absolute prohibition of torture was upheld. The Committee welcomed legislation, policy, and institutions implemented to combat sexual and gender-based violence. However, it expressed concern that victims of domestic violence were required to consider conciliation settlements before prosecution took place. It was also concerned by the continued practice of female genital mutilation and the lack of legislation expressly criminalizing it. It recommended that the State party increase its efforts to stamp out gender-based violence and other harmful practices. Further, the Committee expressed concerns over allegations of torture and ill-treatment by the State party’s armed forces in Yemen. The Committee called on the State party to investigate and prosecute these offences and ensure that victims had a viable pathway to redress, rehabilitation, justice, and compensation.
Mr. Heller announced that, at its seventy-fifth session, the Committee would adopt lists of issues for Ethiopia and Kazakhstan, and lists of issues prior to reporting for Cyprus, Latvia, Niger, Tunisia, and Maldives. At its seventy-sixth session, it would adopt lists of issues for Burundi and Egypt and a list of issues prior to reporting for Portugal.
Turning to the complaints procedure, Mr. Heller noted that during the seventy-fourth session, the Committee had examined 13 individual complaints and adopted 10 decisions on the merits and three decisions on admissibility, while four complaints were discontinued. It also examined progress in implementation of four previous decisions and decided to keep follow-up dialogue open in all of them.
During the session, the Committee continued its discussion on the possibility of allowing third-party interventions in the context of the individual complaints procedure. The Committee requested the Secretariat to develop a non-paper for the seventy-fifth session for further in-depth discussions.
Mr. Heller then reviewed the Committee’s activities on follow-up under articles 19 and 22 of the Convention, and in relation to reprisals. Further information is available in the meeting summary.
Mr. Heller also reported that, on 18 July 2022, the World Organization against Torture provided a briefing on the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on persons deprived of liberty. The briefing emphasised the key role civil society organisations played in filling the gaps left by the slow and highly restrictive response provided by many criminal justice and detention authorities.
In closing, Mr. Heller thanked all non-governmental organisations, national human rights institutions, Committee Experts, members of the secretariat and other stakeholders for their contributions to the session.
Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here. The programme of work of the Committee’s seventy-fourth session and other documents related to the session can be found here.
The Committee is scheduled to hold its seventy-fifth session from 31 October through 25 November 2022, during which it will review the reports of Australia, Chad, El Salvador, Malawi, Somalia, and Uganda.
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