Committee Against Torture

The Committee against Torture was established pursuant to Article 17 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It consists of ten experts of high moral standing and recognised competence in the field of human rights, who serve in their personal capacity.

The Convention confers upon the Committee against Torture broad powers of examination and investigation calculated to ensure their effectiveness in practice. At their initial meeting held at Geneva in April 1988, the members of the Committee against Torture adopted rules of procedure and defined the Committee's working methods, in conformity with the provisions of the Convention.

Reports of States Parties: States Parties to the Convention are required to submit reports on the measures they have taken to give effect to their obligations under the Convention. The Committee considers these reports at regular meetings and makes general comments on the reports as appropriate.

Article 20 Procedure: If the Committee receives reliable information that torture is being systematically practiced, Article 20 of the Convention provides for a confidential inquiry procedure. The Committee will transmit these findings to the State Party concerned together with any comments or suggestions which seem appropriate in view of the situation. While the procedure is fully confidential, the Committee may, after consultations with the State Party concerned, decide to include a summary account of the results of the proceedings in its annual report.

Complaints: A State Party to the Convention may declare that it recognises the competence of the Committee to receive and consider complaints, from other States Parties (1) and/or from individuals who claim to be victims of a violation, (2) that it is not fulfilling its obligations under the Convention.

THE INDIVIDUAL COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE:

Admissibility: For an individual complaint to be admissible, the following criteria must be met:

Provisional measures: In the course of its consideration of either the admissibility or the merits of a communication, and before taking any decision, the Committee may request the State Party concerned to take steps to avoid possible irreparable damage to the alleged victim of the violation. This provision offers protection to persons alleging a violation of the Convention even before the Committee takes a decision on the admissibility or the merits of the case. Moreover, it does not prejudge the Committee's final decision.

Procedure: A model communication to the Committee against Torture is available on the Committee's website. Once a communication has been received and the Committee determines that it is admissible, the Committee will bring it to the attention of the State Party. This State is then obliged to provide the Committee with written explanations clarifying the matter and the remedy, if any, that may have been taken by that State. The Committee will then consider all information made available to it by or on behalf of the individual and by the State Party concerned. It will then forward its views to the State Party and the individual.

View of the Committee against Torture: The Committee, in its views, has recognised that a breach of the Convention requires the State to take remedial measures. For instance, the Committee has requested that the State take steps to ensure that similar violations do not occur in future, and has considered that where complaints of torture are made during court proceedings it is desirable that they be elucidated by means of independent proceedings. It has also recognised in its views the obligation of authorities to proceed to an investigation ex officio, wherever there are reasonable grounds to believe that acts of torture or ill-treatment have been committed and whatever the origin of the suspicion.


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