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Monday, March 22, 2010

Special Report by WFUNA: Report presented to the Human Rights Council by the Special Rapporteur on Torture

During the 5th day of the Human Rights Council's 13th Session, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment presented his report. He began by speaking of the extensive research undertaken to put together a global study on torture, including 16 official mission and a number of other visits as well as three joint studies with other human rights mandate holders. The rest of his presentation focused on his country visits and his experiences in carrying out his mandate.

Rather than "naming and shaming", the special rapporteur chose to give a general representation of countries when he highlighted the grave situation in Equatorial Guinea, where he considered torture to be systematic and cooperation with the government to be lacking. With regards to other country visits, he outlined that to Kazakhstan, where torture is not widespread and remains more than isolated, and to Uruguay and Jamaica, where government officials were cooperative and a few isolated cases were discovered and conditions in places of detention were surprisingly poor. The special Rapporteur expressed his extreme disappointment that a number of States showed disregard for agreed Terms of Reference and denied him confidential interviews with people in detention. Moreover, in some cases there was a serious disrespect for the UN Human Rights system, a considerable waste of scarce UN resources. No apology has been received nor has the Human Rights Council condemned this serious misconduct.

He mentioned that some States, which were obstructive in his presence, appeared to have prepared places of detention specifically for his visit. That said, some States were commended for their cooperation and openness as well as their willingness to respond; in one case the immediate closure of certain prison sections considered to have very poor conditions. Adding to this, he went on to express his concerns that a general respect for Special Procedures mandate-holders was growing amongst governments. He also states his regret that the Council had decided to postpone consideration of the joint study on secret detention to the 14th Session to be held in June. He then articulated his feeling that independent experts ought not be treated with such disrespect and that this discredited the legitimacy and operation of the Council.

In the rest of his presentation to the Council he highlighted the need to overcome the current attitude of confrontation and mistrust and contended that victims of human rights violations deserve better. In outlining conditions of detention he stated that the treatment of people deprived of liberty could be seen as the best measure of human rights in a country. He called for prisons to be opened up to scrutiny and encouraged the training of judges and other state officials in preventing violations of rights related to actions deeply rooted in culture and tradition; for example, female genital mutilation. Lastly, he called for due consideration of a draft convention on the rights of detainees.


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