Panel Scheduled to Consider Reports From Ukraine, Benin, Indonesia, Zambia and Israel

BACKGROUND RELEASE — The Committee against Torture will meet at the Palais Wilson in Geneva from 12 to 23 November 2001 to review the measures adopted by Ukraine, Benin, Indonesia, Zambia, and Israel to prevent and punish acts of torture. Representatives of the five countries are expected to come before the Committee to defend their records in implementing the rights enshrined in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

During the two-week meeting, the panel's 10 independent Experts will also study, in closed session, information appearing to contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practiced in a State party. In addition, they will examine communications from individuals claiming to be victims of a violation by a State party of the provisions of the treaty. The large number of overdue reports from State parties on how they are applying the Convention will be another subject of discussion.

There are 126 State parties to the Convention, which requires signatories to outlaw torture and explicitly prohibits the use of 'higher orders' or 'exceptional circumstances' as excuses for acts of torture. The Committee was established in 1987 to monitor compliance with the Convention and to assist State parties in implementing its provisions.

Committee's concluding observations on the last reports submitted by Ukraine and Israel

Concerning the third periodic report of Ukraine which was considered in late April and early May 1996, the Committee noted among several positive developments Ukraine's compliance with the Convention through the adoption, on 28 June 1996, of its Constitution, article 28 of which prohibits torture. It cited concern about the large number of reports by non-governmental organizations of cases of torture and violence committed by officials during preliminary investigations, causing suffering, bodily injury and, in a number of cases, death, and said the State party lacked a sufficiently effective system of independent bodies capable of successfully investigating complaints and allegations of the use of torture. It recommended the drafting and adoption of directly enforceable regulatory instruments for implementation of the Convention, and said priority should be given to the adoption of a new criminal code, defining torture as a punishable offence, and a new code of criminal procedure, guaranteeing the right of an accused person to counsel at all stages of criminal proceedings.

Following its consideration of the second periodic report of Israel in May 1998, the Committee noted with approval that Israel had embarked upon a number of reforms, such as the creation of the Office of Public Defender, the creation of the Kremnitzer Committee to recommend oversight of police violence, amendments to the Criminal Code, and ministerial review of several security service interrogation practices. It cited concern, among other things, that resort was made to administrative detention in the occupied territories for inordinately lengthy periods and for reasons that did not bear on the risk posed by releasing some detainees. In its conclusions and recommendations, the Committee called for interrogations involving the use force or 'physical pressure', hooding, shackling in painful positions, sleep deprivation and shaking of detainees — all of which the Committee determined were in conflict with articles 1, 2 and 16 of the Convention — to cease immediately, and said the provisions of the Convention should be incorporated by legislation into Israeli law, particularly the definition of torture contained in article 1 of the Convention.

Benin, Indonesia and Zambia are presenting their initial reports.

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:

Wednesday, 14 November

Morning Ukraine, fourth periodic report CAT/C/55/Add.1

Thursday, 15 November

Morning Benin, initial report CAT/C/21/Add.3

Afternoon Ukraine (continued)

Friday, 16 November

Morning Indonesia, initial report CAT/C/47/Add.3

Afternoon Benin (continued)

Monday, 19 November

Morning Zambia, initial report CAT/C/47/Add.2

Afternoon Indonesia (continued)

Tuesday, 20 November

Morning Israel, third periodic report CAT/C/54/Add.1

Afternoon Zambia (continued)

Wednesday, 21 November

Afternoon Ukraine: conclusions and recommendations

Israel (continued)

Thursday, 22 November

Afternoon Benin: conclusions and recommendations

Indonesia: conclusions and recommendations

Friday, 23 November

Morning Zambia: conclusions and recommendations

Israel: conclusions and recommendations

As each country report is taken up by the Committee, a summary of the relevant document will be in the press release covering that session.

Background On Convention And 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. Second, it provides for international investigation of reliable reports of torture, including visits to the State party concerned, with its agreement.

Under article 20 of the Convention, if the Committee receives reliable information which appears to contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practiced in the territory of a State party, the Committee shall invite that State party to cooperate in the examination of this information.

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 126 States: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Fasso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Mali, Malta,

Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, Yugoslavia and Zambia.

The following 45 States have recognized the competence of the Committee under articles 21 and 22: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cameroon Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Senegal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay, Venezuela and Yugoslavia. In addition, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America have recognized the competence of the Committee under article 21 only. Seychelles has recognized the competence of the Committee under article 22 only.

The Commission on Human Rights, at its fifty-seventh session, invited States parties to the Convention to make the declarations under articles 21 and 22. It also invited parties to envisage withdrawing their reservations to article 20.

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. At its fifty-seventh session, the Commission on Human Rights on 24 April, 2001 appealed 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. On 25 April 2001, the Commission extended the mandate of its Special Rapporteur on Torture for three years, encouraging all Governments to envisage inviting him to visit their countries.

The Commission also requested the Working Group charged with elaborating a draft optional protocol to the Convention against Torture to continue its work with a view to achieving a definitive and concrete text. The draft optional protocol would establish a system of inspection visits to places of detention.

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: Peter Thomas Burns (Canada); Guibril Camara (Senegal); Sayed Kassem el Masry (Egypt); Felice Gaer (the United States of America); Antonio Silva Henriques Gaspar (Portugal); Alejandro Gonzalez Poblete (Chile); Andreas Mavrommatis (Cyprus); Ole Vedel Rasmussen (Denmark); Alexander M. Yakovlev (the Russian Federation); and Yu Mengja (China).

Mr. Burns is Chairman. Vice-Chairpersons are Mr. Camara, Mr. Gonzalez Poblete and Mr. Yu. Mr. el Masry is Rapporteur.

* *** *

Document symbol: CAT/01/24
Document Type: Press Release
Document Sources: Committee against Torture
Subject: Human rights and international humanitarian law
Publication Date: 08/11/2001