46th session of CAT- Committee against Torture (CAT)

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The 46th session of the Committee against Torture (CAT) took place at Palais Wilson, in Geneva from 9 May to 3 June 2011. Sr. MariaGrazia Caputo and her collaborators of the IIMA Human Rights Office attended the session and in particular the examination of the National Reports of Turkmenistan, Finland, Monaco and Ireland.

The Committee against Torture is composed of 10 independent experts and has the task to monitor the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, by its State parties.
After a brief presentation by the national delegation of the country under review, the experts asked several questions and clarifications concerning the phenomena of ill treatments and torture in the country. As general remarks on the work of the Committee, it has been very interesting to observe that all the experts asked punctual and direct questions with a view to translate the legal obligations of the treaty into the concrete reality of the country. Despite the differences existing among the countries under review both regarding their compliance with the Convention and the reactions of each delegation to the debate, it was clear that the aim of the experts was not to “judge” or “blame” the countries reviewed, but to cooperate as much as possible for the implementation of the Convention at the national level. For example, it has been underlined how the lack of statistics data and specific cases in the national reports represents a serious obstacle to the work of the Committee.
With regard to the main issues addressed for each country: regarding Turkmenistan, the experts expressed particularly concern for the information provided by NGOs about the death and disappearance of many Human Rights Defenders, who are often subjected to arrest, arbitrary detention and torture. Other issues raised have been the high number of women’s rapes, the problem of overcrowded prisons, corporal punishments and abuse of children in school and domestic environment, ill treatment of persons with mental problems or special needs, the inadequate living conditions of refugees seekers and ethnic minorities. Concerning the review of Finland, the national delegation received many congratulations by the experts about the work carried on for elimination of any form of violence within the country. Among other things, Finland has the lowest number of cases of minors’ detention in Europe. Some experts asked clarifications about the definition of torture in the Finland Criminal Code, the situation of asylum-seekers and minorities, as well as the phenomenon of domestic violence against women.
Regarding Monaco, the State was urged to ratify as soon as possible the Optional Protocol (OP) of the CAT and to clearly define the notion of torture in the national legal system. Other issues addressed were child abuse as well as the living conditions of Roma peoples and refugees seekers.  
Regarding Ireland, the experts of the Committee addressed the definition of torture in the national criminal legislation, the possible ratification of the OP-CAT, the lack of relevant data concerning human rights’ situation in the country, the conditions of people with disabilities, especially prisoners with physical and psychological problems.
In reply to the experts’ questions, national delegations described the legislative, administrative and executive measures adopted in their countries in order to fully implement the Convention. In this regard, a key role has been recognized to educational activities: several national training projects were organized for personnel working in schools, prisons and health centres.
However, all the countries reviewed confirmed the necessity to increase their efforts in order to improve the living conditions of prisoners, stressing how it constitutes one of the most difficult challenges today. They also reaffirmed their strong willingness to combat and punish all acts of violence and engaged themselves in ensuring adequate living standards for all citizens, through the ratification and implementation of all UN human rights treaties.
On the other hand, the experts strongly recommended the States delegations to establish a close collaboration with the Committee in order to ensure the protection of all people against torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments.