Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture
COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES
UNDER ARTICLE 19 OF THE CONVENTION
Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture
81. The Committee considered the second periodic report of Uruguay (CAT/C/17/Add.16) at its 274th and 275th meetings, held on 19 November 1996 (see CAT/C/SR.274 and 275), and adopted the following conclusions and recommendations.
82. The members of the Committee welcome the presentation of the second periodic report by the delegation of Uruguay and note that Uruguay was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention, that it has not made any reservations and that it has recognized the optional procedures set forth in articles 20, 21 and 22 of the Convention.
83. Uruguay is also a party to the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture.
84. The Committee welcomes the fact that the Uruguayan delegation included representatives of the executive and the judiciary and that the report was prepared with the participation of official institutions such as the Supreme Court of Justice, the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of the Interior, as well as non-governmental organizations such as Service Peace and Justice and the Institute for Legal and Social Studies of Uruguay, which enjoy well-deserved prestige in the area of the protection and promotion of human rights. In the Committee's view, such cooperation clearly shows that the eradication of the practice of torture has been elevated to the level of national policy that must be pursued by the authorities and society as a whole.
85. The report describes a series of measures that attest to the authorities' concern to achieve the maximum harmonization of legislation and administrative procedures with the requirements of the Convention.
86. Among those measures are the bills on crimes against humanity, on the establishment of courts of enforcement and supervision and on the parliamentary commission set up to examine issues relating to prisons.
87. The Committee also appreciates the establishment of the Honorary National Commission for the Amendment of the Code of Penal Procedure, through Act No. 15,844 of 1990, and of the Honorary Commission on the improvement of the prison system, through Act No. 16,707 of July 1995.
88. The establishment of a working group on the national prison system, made up of representatives of the non-governmental organizations listed in paragraph 23 of the second periodic report, which is developing a programme of systematic visits to penal institutions, is in the Committee's view worthy of being held up as an example. Some of the proposals formulated by the working group from a multi-disciplinary point of view, which are described in the report, have been welcomed by the Government and are an indication of the working group's serious commitment; for this reason it should be given further support by the Government and institutionalized.
89. With regard to medical ethics, mention should be made of the establishment of a Committee on Medical Ethics and Academic Conduct within the Faculty of Medicine of the Universidad de la República through Decree No. 258/92, which for the first time in domestic law regulates the ethical standards applicable to medical conduct, and of the Uruguayan Medical Association's adoption by a direct vote of its own Code of Medical Ethics.
Factors and difficulties impeding the application of the provisions
of the Convention
90. The Committee notes:
(a) The slowness of the legislative process for considering and adopting the bills mentioned earlier;
(b) The fact that the technical cooperation agreement signed in 1992 between the United Nations Centre for Human Rights and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay has been suspended. The three projects on awareness-raising and training in the application of international human rights instruments, adopted under the agreement in 1992, for prison officers, judicial personnel and doctors were positive initiatives and it is regrettable that they have been ended.
Subjects of concern
91. The Committee regrets the State party's delay in giving effect to the recommendations made during the consideration of Uruguay's initial report. The Committee is particularly concerned at the following:
(a) The continuing gaps in Uruguayan legislation which are impeding full implementation of the provisions of the Convention;
(b) The lack of a provision introducing a definition of the crime of torture into domestic law in terms compatible with article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention;
(c) The persistence in Uruguayan law of provisions concerning obedience to a superior, which are incompatible with article 2, paragraph 3, of the Convention.
92. The Committee welcomes the series of legal and administrative measures described in the report, which attest to the State party's determination to fulfil the obligations it assumed on promptly ratifying the Convention. It regrets, however, the considerable delay in implementing them.
93. The Committee reminds the State party that it must introduce the legal reforms needed to bring its internal legislation into conformity with the provisions of the Convention, in particular as regards the definition of torture as a specific offence and the elimination of obedience to a superior as justification for exculpation from the crime of torture.
94. It also urges the State party to improve the measures taken to prevent the torture of persons deprived of their liberty and to strengthen protection in prisons.
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights