UNITED NATIONS

Press Release



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COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE CONCLUDES THIRTY-SIXTH SESSION


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19 May 2006

Issues Concluding Observations on Reports of Peru, Georgia, Guatemala,
the United States, Qatar, Togo and the Republic of Korea


The Committee against Torture today concluded its three-week spring session and issued its concluding observations and recommendations on reports from Peru, Georgia, Guatemala, the United States, Qatar, Togo and the Republic of Korea which it reviewed during the session.

Those countries are among the 141 States parties to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and are bound by the terms of the treaty to submit periodic reports on efforts to ensure that such human rights violations do not occur on their territories. In addition to submitting the reports, the countries sent delegations before the Committee of 10 independent Experts to answer questions.

Following its consideration of the fourth periodic report of Peru, the Committee congratulated the State party on the significant progress it had made during the past five years and warmly welcomed the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the report submitted to the President in August 2003 containing a series of recommendations to promote the principles of justice, truth and reparation, as well as measures to recognize and compensate victims. The Committee noted that complaints continued to be received against members of the national police force, the Armed Forces, and prison system officials and was also concerned that complaints of torture and cruel treatment continued to be received in respect of recruits on military service. The Committee requested Peru to take effective steps to prevent all torture and, among others, reminded it of its obligation to investigate impartially all complaints submitted

Among the positive aspects in the third periodic report of Georgia, the Committee welcomed the State party’s accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture as well as the declarations it had made under articles 21 and 22 of the Convention. The Committee remained concerned that, despite extensive legislative reforms, impunity and intimidation still persisted, in particular in relation to the use of excessive force, including torture and other forms of ill-treatment, by law enforcement officials, especially prior to and during arrest, during prison riots and in the fight against organized crime. The Committee recommended that Georgia ensure that a policy of zero tolerance was developed and implemented at all levels of the police force hierarchy as well as for all staff in the penitentiary establishments. Such a policy should identify and address the problems, and elaborate a code of conduct for all officials, including those involved in the fight against organized crime, as well as introduce regular monitoring by an independent oversight body.

In its conclusions on the fourth periodic report of Guatemala, the Committee noted with satisfaction the improvement in the human rights situation in the country, as the practice of enforced disappearance as a State policy no longer took place and allegations of the existence of secret centres of detention were no longer received. The Committee reiterated its concern about the laws and practices that allowed the army to take part in internal public security and crime prevention activities, and took note that the State party had assigned 3,000 military personnel to support the fight against common crime – instead of strengthening the police – and, among others, urged the State party to strengthen the National Civil Police.

Among positive developments in the second periodic report of the United States, the Committee welcomed the State party’s statement that all officials, from all Government agencies, including its contractors, were prohibited from engaging in torture at all times and in all places, and from engaging in cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Committee was concerned by allegations that the State party had established secret detention facilities, which were not accessible to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Committee recommended that the United States cease to detain any person at Guantánamo Bay and that it close that detention facility, permit access by the detainees to judicial process or release them as soon as possible, ensuring that they were not returned to any State where they could face a real risk of being tortured.
In its conclusions on the initial report of Qatar, the Committee acknowledged the extensive and ongoing efforts of Qatar to reform its legal and institutional system, and welcomed its affirmation that there was political will in the State at its highest levels to promote and protect human rights, particularly those guaranteed in the Convention. The Committee was concerned that certain provisions of the Criminal Code of Qatar allowed punishments such as flogging and stoning to be imposed as criminal sanctions. The Committee was also concerned that there were different regimes applicable, in law and in practice, to nationals and foreigners, and it urged Qatar to ensure that the Convention and its protections were applicable to all persons in equal measure.

In its conclusions on the initial report of Togo, the Committee appreciated Togo’s engagement to modernize its judiciary by means of its National Programme for the Modernization of Justice and the creation of a National Commission for the Modernization of Legislation. The Committee was concerned by allegations it had received that torture, forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and secret detentions, as well as rapes of women by military personnel – often in the presence of their family members – was widespread, and that perpetrators of such acts enjoyed apparent impunity. The Committee urged the State party to take legislative, administrative and judiciary measures to prevent the commission of any act of torture or ill-treatment on its territory.

Among the positive aspects in the second periodic report of the Republic of Korea, the Committee noted measures to investigate and provide remedies for past violations of human rights, such as the enactment of the Special Act to Find the Truth on Suspicious Deaths in 2000. In view of the number of reported allegations of torture and/or other acts of cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment, the Committee was concerned about the relatively low rate of indictments, convictions and disciplinary measures imposed on law enforcement officials. The Committee requested the Republic of Korea to ensure in its legal system that all allegations of torture and ill-treatment were promptly and thoroughly examined, and that all victims obtained redress and had an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation.

In addition to reviewing country reports in public session, the Committee considered in private meetings information appearing to contain well-founded indications that torture was being systematically practiced in the territories of some States parties. And it examined communications from individuals claiming to be victims of violations by States parties of the provisions of the Convention. Such communications are accepted only if they concern the 56 States that have declared the Committee competent to receive complaints under article 22 of the Convention.

The Committee against Torture completed its consideration of the complaint brought under article 22 of the Convention by Suleymane Guengueng and others, Chadian nationals, against Senegal. The complainants charged that Senegal had failed to either bring Hissène Habré, the ex-President of Chad who had been residing in Senegal since 1990, to justice for crimes of torture, or to extradite him to face justice in another State. The Committee concluded that the Senegal had not fulfilled its obligations under Article 5, paragraph 2, of the Convention and that, moreover, the State party had failed to fulfil its Article 7 obligations in two separate instances. The Committee requested Senegal to provide information on measures it was taking to address the situation and fulfil its obligations within 90 days.

The Committee’s next session will be held from 6 to 24 November 2006 during which it is scheduled to examine reports from Hungary, the Russian Federation, Mexico, Guyana, Burundi, South Africa and Tajikistan, as well as the situation in the Seychelles as a non-reporting State party.


Conclusions and Recommendations on Country Reports

Peru

Following its consideration of the fourth periodic report of Peru, the Committee congratulated the State party on the significant progress it had made during the past five years. In particular, it warmly welcomed the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the report submitted to the President in August 2003 containing a series of recommendations to promote the principles of justice, truth and reparation by means of institutional reforms and measures to recognize and compensate victims. The Committee particularly wished to commend the Comprehensive Plan for Reparation and underlined the importance of the fact that adequate resources were being allocated to implement those recommendations. The Committee also took note of the increasing number of investigations into complaints of torture and the decline in the number of complaints of police torture submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman during the period 1999 to 2004.

The Committee noted that complaints continued to be received against members of the national police force, the Armed Forces, and prison system officials. The Committee was also concerned that complaints of torture and cruel treatment continued to be received in respect of recruits on military service. The Committee requested Peru to take effective steps to prevent all torture and, among others, reminded it of its obligation to investigate impartially all complaints submitted. The Committee was concerned at the occurrence of abuses on the part of the police and the Armed Forces during the states of emergency that were frequently proclaimed. Also, while recognizing Peru’s progress in repealing amnesty laws and bringing criminal proceedings against army and police officers for torture, the Committee remained concerned at the excessive length of such proceedings and regretted that the jurisdiction of the military criminal courts was not exercised in accordance with the human rights obligations entered into by Peru.

Other concerns of the Committee included the continuing reports it received of torture and ill-treatment in places of pretrial detention and prisons. It was also concerned at overpopulation and overcrowding within the prison system and at the lack of medical personnel and of court-appointed counsel who could act as public defenders. The Committee recommended that urgent steps be taken in that regard. Moreover, the Committee repeated its recommendation that Yanamayo prison be closed, that responsibility for all prison facilities should lie with the civil, not the military, authorities, and, lastly, that Peru should implement the National Plan for the Treatment of Prisoners.

Georgia

Among the positive aspects in the third periodic report of Georgia, the Committee welcomed the State party’s accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture as well as the declarations it had made under articles 21 and 22 of the Convention. The Committee noted with satisfaction ongoing reform efforts at the State level, including the revision of the Code of Criminal Procedure to bring Georgian legislation in line with international norms with regard to the definition of torture; the elaboration of the Plan of Action against torture, the Plan of Measures to Reform and Develop the Penal Correction System and the National Anti-Trafficking Plan; and the adoption of new laws such as the law on domestic violence and the draft law on trafficking and new draft Penitentiary Code for the consideration of Parliament in 2006.

The Committee remained concerned that, despite extensive legislative reforms, impunity and intimidation still persisted, in particular in relation to the use of excessive force, including torture and other forms of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials, especially prior to and during arrest, during prison riots and in the fight against organized crime. The Committee therefore recommended that Georgia give higher priority to efforts to promote a culture of human rights by ensuring that a policy of zero tolerance was developed and implemented at all levels of the police force hierarchy as well as for all staff in the penitentiary establishments. Such a policy should identify and address the problems, and elaborate a code of conduct for all officials, including those involved in the fight against organized crime, as well as introduce regular monitoring by an independent oversight body. The State party should also strengthen its investigative capacity, including that of the Prosecutor-General’s office, in order to promptly and thoroughly examine all allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and statistics on convictions and disciplinary measures should be regularly published and made available to the public.

The Committee was particularly concerned about, and requested detailed information on, the causes and circumstances of all sudden deaths that had occurred in places of detention, as well as information in respect of independent investigations in that connection. It further encouraged the State party to continue its cooperation with the ICRC and non-governmental organizations with regard to the implementation of programmes related to the treatment of tuberculosis and distribution and monitoring of the medicines taken in penitentiary facilities throughout its territory.

Guatemala

In its conclusions on the fourth periodic report of Guatemala, the Committee was pleased to note that efforts have been made to reform the State party’s judicial system, particularly the work carried out by the judiciary’s Modernization Unit. It welcomed the declaration by the State party under article 22 of the Convention, recognizing the competence of the Committee to receive complaints of torture from individuals. The Committee was pleased to note that in April 2006 Guatemala had submitted a proposal to the Office of the Secretary-General to establish a Commission of Investigation into Illegal Groups and Clandestine Security Apparatuses. The Committee noted with satisfaction the improvement in the human rights situation in the country, as the practice of enforced disappearance as a State policy no longer took place and allegations of the existence of secret centres of detention were no longer received.

The Committee reiterated its concern about the laws and practices that allowed the army to take part in internal public security and crime prevention activities, and took note that the State party had assigned 3,000 military personnel to support the fight against common crime – instead of strengthening the police – and, among others, urged the State party to strengthen the National Civil Police. The Committee, concerned about increasing allegations regarding harassment and persecution of human rights defenders, recommended that Guatemala adopt effective measures to strengthen the unit for the protection of human rights defenders within the Presidential Human Rights Commission, as well as prevent and protect human rights defenders from any further violence and further requested that the State party should ensure the prompt, thorough and effective investigation and appropriate punishment of these acts. The Committee further recommended that the State party should amend its legislation in order to explicitly provide that an order from a superior officer or a public authority could not be invoked as a justification of torture.

The Committee was concerned about the numerous allegations concerning “social cleansing” and killings of children living in the street and in marginalized areas, which often included acts of torture and ill-treatment; the increase in violent killings of women, which often included sexual violence, mutilations and torture; and the lynching of individuals, which challenged the rule of law in the State party. The Committee requested Guatemala to take urgent measures to address that situation, inter alia, by carrying out trainings for police officers and members of the judiciary to sensitize and build awareness of the existing social violence in order to enable them to receive complaints and investigate them accordingly.

United States

Among positive developments in the second periodic report of the United States, the Committee welcomed the State party’s statement that all officials, from all Government agencies, including its contractors, were prohibited from engaging in torture at all times and in all places, and from engaging in cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Committee noted with satisfaction the State party’s statement that it did not transfer persons to countries where it believed that it was “more likely than not” they would be tortured, and that that also applied, as a matter of policy, to the transfer of any individual in the State party’s custody or control, regardless of where they were detained. The Committee also noted with satisfaction the enactment of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, which addressed sexual assault of persons in the custody of correctional agencies. The Committee also noted the intention to adopt a new Army Field Manual for intelligence interrogation, applicable to all its personnel, which, according to the State party, will ensure that interrogation techniques fully comply with the Convention.

The Committee reiterated its concern with regard to the absence of a federal crime of torture consistent with Article 1 of the Convention and requested, among others, that the State party ensure that acts of psychological torture, prohibited by the Convention, were not limited to “prolonged mental harm”, but constituted a wider category of acts, which caused severe mental suffering, irrespective of their prolongation or its duration. The Committee regretted the State party’s opinion that the Convention was not applicable in times and in the context of armed conflict, and that the Convention’s application would result in an overlap of the different treaties which would undermine the objective of eradicating torture.

The Committee urged the United States to register all persons it detained in any territory under its jurisdiction to prevent acts of torture. In that regard, the Committee was concerned by allegations that the State party had established secret detention facilities, which were not accessible to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Detainees were deprived of fundamental legal safeguards, including an oversight mechanism in regard to their treatment and review procedures with respect to their detention. The Committee was also concerned by allegations that those detained in such facilities could be held for prolonged periods and faced torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The Committee considered the “no comment” policy of the State party regarding the existence of such secret detention facilities, as well as on its intelligence activities, to be regrettable. In addition, the United States should cease to detain any person at Guantánamo Bay and close that detention facility. It should permit access by the detainees to judicial process or release them as soon as possible, ensuring that they were not returned to any State where they could face a real risk of being tortured.

Qatar

In its conclusions on the initial report of Qatar, the Committee acknowledged the extensive and ongoing efforts of Qatar to reform its legal and institutional system, and welcomed its affirmation that there was political will in the State at its highest levels to promote and protect human rights, particularly those guaranteed in the Convention. The Committee also welcomed the adoption of a new Constitution, which, notably, guaranteed that no one could be subjected to torture or degrading treatment and that torture was an offence punishable by law. Additionally, the Committee welcomed actions taken to combat trafficking, including in particular a law banning trafficking of children related to camel racing, and noted the measures to provide rehabilitation and compensation to such persons. Further, the Committee noted the creation of the Qatari Institution for the Protection of Women and Children in 2003, as well as the establishment of a set of telephone hotlines to aid persons complaining of abuse.

While appreciating the delegation’s statement that Qatar’s reservation to the Convention would not impede the full enjoyment of all the rights guaranteed in it, the Committee recommended that Qatar consider re-examining its reservation with a view to withdrawing it. The State party should also adopt a definition of torture in domestic penal law consistent with article 1 of the Convention and ensure that appropriate penalties were established for those responsible for such acts. The Committee was also concerned about threats to the independence of judges, a large proportion of whom were foreign nationals. Since residency permits for foreign judges were granted by civil authorities, a sense of uncertainty and undue dependency on the discretion of such authorities might be created, thus bringing pressure on judges.

Other concerns of the Committee were that certain provisions of the Criminal Code allowed punishments such as flogging and stoning to be imposed as criminal sanctions. Those practices constituted a breach of the obligations imposed by the Convention. Another concern was the absence of legal provisions that explicitly prohibited the expulsion, refoulement or extradition of a person to another State where there were substantial grounds for believing that the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture. Further, there was no provision in domestic law that granted asylum or refugee status, offering protection to such persons. The Committee was concerned that there were different regimes applicable, in law and in practice, to nationals and foreigners, and the Committee urged Qatar to ensure that the Convention and its protections were applicable to all persons in equal measure.

Togo

In its concluding observations on the initial report of Togo, the Committee appreciated Togo’s engagement to modernize its judiciary by means of its National Programme for the Modernization of Justice and the creation of a National Commission for the Modernization of Legislation. The Committee expressed its satisfaction at the creation, on 10 August 2005, of a General Inspectorate of Security Services, charged with overseeing detention conditions and the duration of detentions. The Committee also took note of a government programme for recruiting new corrections officers who had received training in the rights of prisoners and on the prohibition against torture. The Committee welcomed the adoption of the 1998 law prohibiting female genital mutilation. The Committee also noted with satisfaction that Togo had signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture on 19 September 2005.

The Committee was concerned by allegations it had received – in particular following the elections of April 2005 – that torture, forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and secret detentions, as well as rapes of women by military personnel, often in the presence of their family members, was widespread, and that perpetrators of such acts enjoyed apparent impunity. The Committee urged the State party to take legislative, administrative and judiciary measures to prevent the commission of any act of torture or ill-treatment on its territory. Furthermore, in no case should military personnel be involved in the arrest or detention of civilians. The State party needed to take urgent measures to place all detention facilities under judicial authority, and to prevent agents from making arbitrary arrests and using torture. In addition, the State party needed to take energetic measures to eliminate impunity for the perpetrators of such acts, to ensure that prompt, impartial, and thorough investigations were undertaken, that cases were brought to court, and that, if found guilty, perpetrators were punished.

The Committee was concerned about the absence of Article 3 legislative guarantees in Togolese legislation and recommended that Togo take all necessary measures to prohibit the expulsion, refoulement or extradition of a person to another State where there were serious grounds for believing that individual would be subjected to torture. In that connection, the Committee urged the State party to revise the terms of its subregional agreements with neighbouring States, which provided for the return of convicted persons outside of any judicial framework. The Committee was also concerned about the presence of ex-President of the Central African Republic, Ange-Felix Patasse, remanded by the Court of Appeal of the Central African Republic to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, in Togo and requested the State party to transfer him to the ICC.

Republic of Korea

In its concluding comments on the second periodic report of the Republic of Korea, the Committee welcomed the significant progress it had made to ensure better protection of human rights since the first report. It also noted the more stringent application of the National Security Law, and measures to release and pardon individuals previously convicted under that Law, as well as measures to investigate and provide remedies for past violations of human rights, such as the enactment of the Special Act to Find the Truth on Suspicious Deaths in 2000. The Committee also noted the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission in 2001, with a mandate to investigate and remedy human rights violations and, in certain circumstances, to conduct inspections of detention and correctional facilities, as well as the establishment of civilian monitoring bodies for detention and correctional facilities, such as the sexual violence monitoring board and the correctional administration advisory committee.

While welcoming oral assurances by the delegation that it would make recommendations for changes in domestic law, the Committee remained concerned that the State party incorporate a definition of the crime of torture into its Criminal Code, in accordance with article 1 of the Convention. In view of the number of reported allegations of torture and/or other acts of cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment, and of complaints of human rights violations in general, the Committee was concerned about the relatively low rate of indictments, convictions and disciplinary measures imposed on law enforcement officials. The Committee requested the Republic of Korea to ensure in its legal system that all allegations of torture and ill-treatment were promptly and thoroughly examined, and that all victims obtained redress and had an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation. In that regard, the Committee urged the adoption of the bill to exclude or suspend the application of a statute of limitations to crimes against humanity (including torture crimes), which was currently pending before the National Assembly. The Committee also urged the State party to establish comprehensive programmes for the treatment and rehabilitation (both physical and mental) of victims of torture and ill-treatment, including the right to fair and adequate compensation.

Other concerns the Committee cited were reports that the urgent arrest procedure, by which individuals could be detained without an arrest warrant for 48 hours, was excessively resorted to. Also, while the Committee welcomed the delegation’s oral assurances that it would study the matter of persons removed or returned where they faced a real personal risk of torture, the Committee held that the State party should ensure that the requirements of article 3 of the Convention applied when deciding on the expulsion, return or extradition of each case of non-citizens or persons of Korean nationality who might be returned to areas outside the jurisdiction of the Republic of Korea.
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