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Committee against Torture Opens Seventy-second Session, Elects New Chair and Bureau

8 November 2021

The Committee against Torture this morning opened its seventy-second session, electing a new Chair and Bureau, hearing new Committee Experts orally confirm their solemn declaration, adopting its agenda for the session, and hearing a statement by Mahamane Cisse-Gouro, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Mr. Cisse-Gouro noted that the COVID-19 pandemic continued to create unprecedented challenges for the protection of human rights worldwide, including the prohibition of torture. The human rights situation for detainees had been particularly severe, with an escalation of torture and ill-treatment in detention centres by slowing or suspending judicial oversight of these places. Monitoring and dialogue with States was of critical importance, and the resumption of the Committee’s in-person State party reviews was a positive development to that end.

Antti Korkeakivi, Chief, Anti-Torture, Coordination and Funds Section, Human Rights Treaties Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, chaired the meeting until the new Committee Experts orally confirmed their solemn declaration and the new Chair was elected. Erdoğan İşcan (Turkey), Huawen Liu (China), Ilvija Puce (Latvia) and Peter Vedel Kessing (Denmark) orally confirmed their solemn declaration as it was their first in-person session.

The Committee elected Claude Heller (Mexico) as Chair of the Committee until one day before the seventy-third session, scheduled to be held from 19 April to 13 May 2022. Ana Racu, Sébastien Touzé and Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov were elected as Vice-Chairpersons and Erdoğan İşcan was elected as Rapporteur, also until the next session. Elections for a new Chair and Bureau will be held at the seventy-third session.

Mr. Heller, taking his place on the podium, said much had happened in the two years since the Committee had met in person, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic was not over. There had, unfortunately, been substantial backsliding on human rights, including in the fields of work of the Committee as regards torture and ill-treatment, and the Committee therefore needed to take on new challenges, roll up its sleeves, and fully resume its functions as the body in charge of monitoring States parties to the Convention against Torture, also looking at individual complaints about torture in many parts of the world.

Mr. Heller said that during the session, the Committee would consider the reports of five States parties: Bolivia, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Serbia, and Sweden. The Committee would also consider the status of implementation of the Convention in Nigeria in the absence of an initial report.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Meeting coverage releases can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings is available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 9 November, to begin its consideration of the eighth periodic report of Sweden (CAT/C/SWE/8).

Opening Statement

MAHAMANE CISSE-GOURO, Director, Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the COVID-19 pandemic continued to create unprecedented challenges for the protection of human rights worldwide, including the prohibition of torture. The human rights situation for detainees had been particularly severe, with an escalation of torture and ill-treatment in detention centres by slowing or suspending judicial oversight of these places. Monitoring and dialogue with States was of critical importance, and the resumption of the Committee’s in-person State party reviews was a positive development to that end. Mr. Cisse-Gouro thanked the Committee for having ensured business despite the challenges faced since the beginning of the pandemic. In addition to the work accomplished during the Committee’s last three sessions, which had been held online, the Rapporteur on new complaints and interim measures had registered new cases and issued interim measures of protection. Other Committee Rapporteurs had assessed the information provided by over 20 States parties under the follow-up procedure, reprisals, and other activities, and the Working Group on individual communications had held its work online.

Highlighting some of the work relevant to the Committee’s mandate which the Office had been engaged in since the Committee’s last session, he noted that relevant General Assembly resolutions since 2002 had been calling upon all States to take measures to prevent and prohibit the production, trade, export, import and use of equipment that was specifically designed to inflict torture. Toward that end, the Secretary-General had recently established a Group of Governmental Experts, including Committee Member Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov, to examine the feasibility, scope of the goods to be included, and draft parameters for a range of options to establish common international standards on the matter.

The annual meeting of Chairpersons of the human rights treaty bodies had taken place in June 2021, and provided a timely opportunity to discuss critical issues, including the development of a predictable review calendar, the ongoing harmonisation of working methods, and the digital transition, including the use of new technological developments to increase efficiency, transparency and accessibility of the treaty body system. In follow-up to the meeting, the Chair of that meeting had put on the table comprehensive proposals to be considered by all Committees during their meetings until the end of the year. In conclusion, Mr. Cisse-Gouro wished the Committee the best for a successful and productive session.

Solemn Declarations and Election of New Chair and Bureau

ANTTI KORKEAKIVI, Chief, Anti-Torture, Coordination and Funds Section, Human Rights Treaties Branch, at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, chaired the meeting until the new Committee Experts orally confirmed their solemn declaration and the new Chair was elected. Erdoğan İşcan (Turkey), Huawen Liu (China), Ilvija Puce (Latvia) and Peter Vedel Kessing (Denmark) orally confirmed their solemn declaration as it was their first in-person session.

The Committee elected Claude Heller (Mexico) as Chair of the Committee until one day before the seventy-third session, scheduled to be held from 19 April to 13 May 2022. Ana Racu, Sébastien Touzé and Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov were elected as Vice-Chairpersons and Erdoğan İşcan was elected as Rapporteur, also until the next session. Elections for a new Chair and Bureau will be held at the seventy-third session.

Statement by the New Chairperson

CLAUDE HELLER, Committee Chairperson, taking his place on the podium, thanked the Committee for their trust during the interim period, and with the recent election. The session was in some ways historic, as the Committee was meeting in person for the first time in almost two years. So much had happened in that time in terms of challenges facing human rights. The COVID-19 pandemic was not over, and huge economic and social impacts were being seen across the world, including deep social inequalities, and inequalities in terms of vaccination. There had, unfortunately, been substantial backsliding on human rights, including in the fields of work of the Committee as regards torture and ill-treatment. The Committee therefore needed to take on new challenges, roll up its sleeves, and fully resume its functions as the body in charge of monitoring States parties to the Convention, also looking at individual complaints about torture in many parts of the world.

He informed that the Committee had agreed by consensus to elect three Vice-Chairpersons: Ana Racu, Sébastien Touzé and Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov, and Erdoğan İşcan as Rapporteur. They would also perform their functions until one day before the seventy-third session of the Committee.

The Committee then proceeded to adopt the agenda of the seventy-second session.

Mr. Heller said that during its session, the Committee would consider the reports of five States parties: Bolivia, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Serbia, and Sweden. The Committee would also consider the status of implementation of the Convention in Nigeria in the absence of an initial report. National human rights institutions and national preventive mechanisms had been invited to meet with the Committee. The Committee was also scheduled, during its session, to consider and adopt lists of issues prior to reporting on Canada, Guatemala, Netherlands, Peru and Saudi Arabia.

As for individual communications, he noted that the Committee was scheduled to consider 15 communications on the merits of complaints, four communications on, as well as six draft discontinuances. The Committee would also hear reports on follow-up to articles 19 and 22 and to reprisals.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/11/committee-against-torture-opens-seventy-second-session-elects