UN expert committee against torture to open first 2003 session


The Committee against Torture will open the first of its two regular annual sessions Monday at the Palais Wilson in Geneva, and through 16 May, is expected to review measures adopted by Cambodia, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Turkey, Slovenia, Belgium and the Republic of Moldova to prevent and punish acts of torture.Representatives of the seven countries are expected to come before the Committee to defend their records in implementing the rights enshrined in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.The Convention, adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly in 1984, entered into force on 26 June 1987 and has since been ratified by 132 States. Those parties are required to outlaw torture and are explicitly prohibited from using “higher orders” or “exceptional circumstances” as excuses for acts of torture. The Committee was established in 1987 to monitor compliance with the Convention and assist States parties in implementing its provisions.The Convention introduced two significant new elements to the UN fight against torture. First, it specifies that alleged torturers may be tried in any State party or they may be extradited to face trial in the State party where their crimes were committed. Second, it uniquely confers upon the Committee broad powers of examination and investigation of reliable reports of torture, including visits to the State party concerned, with its agreement, if reliable information is received which appears to contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practiced in the territory of a State party.During the upcoming session, the Committee’s 10 independent Experts will study, in closed-door meetings, information appearing to contain well-founded indications that such acts are being practiced in a State party. In addition, they will examine complaints from individuals claiming to be victims of a violation by a State party of the provisions of the Convention.

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