Torture Prevention

International Action Against Torture During January 2019

The United Nations Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) undertook its first visit to Switzerland from 28 January through 7 February to evaluate the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty as well as the guarantees in place protecting them against torture and ill-treatment.[1]

Switzerland had ratified the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (OPCAT) in 2009 and the same year put into place a National Preventive Mechanism, the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture.[2]

During its visit, the SPT delegation will meet representatives of federal and cantonal authorities, the public prosecutor’s office, the judiciary and civil society. The delegation will also visit prisons, police stations, detention centers for migrants, as well as psychiatric institutions. The SPT delegation will present its preliminary, confidential observations to the Federal Government and the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture at the end of the visit.[3]

Interventions by UN Experts

I. UN experts urge Pakistan to halt execution of person with disability

UN human rights experts have on 13 January 2019 urged the authorities in Pakistan to halt the execution of Mr. Khizar Hayat, a man with psychosocial disabilities. His execution was scheduled for 15 January 2019.[4]

The UN experts sought to remind that the imposition of capital punishment on individuals with psychosocial disabilities is a clear violation of Pakistan’s international obligations and urged the Government to stop the execution.[5]

Mr. Hayat, a former police officer, was sentenced to death in 2003 for the alleged murder of a fellow officer. During his trial no evidence or witnesses were called in his defense and no questions were asked regarding his mental health, although he was later diagnosed with a mental health condition and has been receiving treatment for the past 10 years. He has spent over 15 years in custody and faced several attacks by other inmates because of his disability and has been kept in solitary confinement since 2012.[6]

On 18 December 2018, the National Commission for Human Rights Pakistan issued an order directing a stay of the execution on humanitarian grounds. However, on 10 January 2018 the District and Sessions Judge in Lahore issued an imminent execution warrant, disregarding the NCHR’s direction.[7]

II. UN experts alarmed by alleged police killings in Uttar Pradesh

Four UN human rights experts have on 11 January 2019 expressed alarm about allegations of at least 59 extrajudicial killings by police in Uttar Pradesh since March 2017.[8] The experts have written to the Indian government with information about 15 cases of what could be extra-judicial killings by the Uttar Pradesh police. They have also taken note of 59 cases of possible fake encounters.[9] Most of the 15 cases relate individuals from Muslim communities living in poverty. Evidence indicates the killings took place in police custody. In all of the cases, the police said the killings were during encounters and in self-defence.[10]

On 11 January 2019, four UN human rights experts have expressed serious concerns over allegations extrajudicial killings by police in Uttar Pradesh since March 2017. The experts have written to the Indian government on 15 cases. “We are extremely concerned about the pattern of events: individuals allegedly being abducted or arrested before their killing, and their bodies bearing injuries indicative of torture,” the UN experts said.

The experts expressed concerns that the Supreme Court’s guidelines on investigations were not followed. This included police failing to inform family members of the killings, to conduct examinations of the scene, to provide copies of post-mortem reports to families, and to transfer cases to an independent investigative agency.

The experts cited People’s Union of Civil Liberties vs State of Maharashtra (2014) and say that the Indian government has not been following the guidelines laid down in this case on how investigations should be conducted.[11]

They expressed serious concerns about reports that family members of victims and human rights defenders working on the cases have been harassed, subjected to death threats from police and had false criminal cases brought against them in apparent attempts to intimidate them. They called for an urgent review of the use of force by Uttar Pradesh police to ensure all law enforcement operations were conducted in compliance with international standards, for prompt, independent, and thorough investigations into all allegations of potentially unlawful killings and for perpetrators to be prosecuted.[12]

They also highlighted their concern over statements issued by high ranking state government and police officials seeming to incite, justify or sanction killings. The National Human Rights Commission of India opened an investigation on 9 May 2018 into 18 deaths, including those raised by the experts, which is ongoing.[13]

EU’s action against torture

I. CPT urges Norway to improve the situation for prisoners in solitary confinement

The Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has on 17 January 2019 published a report on a visit to Norway carried out in 2018. During its visit, the CPT examined the situation of persons deprived of their liberty in police establishments, prisons, the Trandum immigration detention centre, a psychiatric hospital and a nursing home.[14]

The report stated that in some of the prisons visited, the CPT found that a number of prisoners were locked up alone in their cells for 22 hours per day (the daily out-of-cell activities being limited to one hour of outdoor exercise taken alone and one hour of access to a fitness room alone) for prolonged periods with only very limited contact with staff.  The CPT recommended that all prisoners subjected to “complete exclusion from company” benefit from a structured programme of purposeful and preferably out-of-cell activities and that they be provided with meaningful human contact on a daily basis.[15]

The Committee also observed major problems in the prisons visited in transferring prisoners with severe mental disorders to psychiatric hospitals and urged the Norwegian authorities to implement their long-standing plan to construct a regional psychiatric security department in the Oslo area.[16]

II. CPT holds high-level talks with the Bulgarian authorities

Representatives of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) held high-level talks with the Bulgarian authorities in Sofia on 15 January 2019.[17]

The main objective of the talks was to discuss the measures taken by the Bulgarian authorities to implement the CPT’s recommendations set out in the report on the CPT’s 2017 visit to Bulgaria and, more generally, to advance the on-going dialogue between the Committee and the Bulgarian authorities.[18]

The Committee also raised the issues of treatment and conditions of detention of persons in penitentiary establishments, as well as treatment, conditions and legal safeguards offered to psychiatric patients and residents of social care institutions.[19]


Endnotes:

[1]. UN torture prevention body to visit Switzerland, OHCHR, 24 January 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24104&LangID=E

[2]. UN torture prevention body to visit Switzerland, OHCHR, 24 January 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx ?NewsID=24104&LangID=E

[3]. UN torture prevention body to visit Switzerland, OHCHR, 24 January 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/Display News.aspx? NewsID=24104&LangID=E

[4]. UN experts urge Pakistan to halt execution of person with disability, OHCHR, 13 January 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/ DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24068&LangID=E

[5]. UN experts urge Pakistan to halt execution of person with disability, OHCHR, 13 January 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/ DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24068&LangID=E

[6]. UN experts urge Pakistan to halt execution of person with disability, OHCHR, 13 January 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages /DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24068&LangID=E

[7]. Ibid

[8]. India: UN experts alarmed by alleged police killings in Uttar Pradesh, OHCHR, 11 January 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/ DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24066&LangID=E

[9]. Ibid

[10]. Ibid

[11]. Ibid

[12]. Ibid

[13]. Ibid

[14]. Norway should improve the situation for prisoners in solitary confinement, Council of Europe, 17 January 2019, https://www.coe.int/en/web/cpt/-/norway-should-improve-the-situation-for-prisoners-in-solitary-confinement

[15]. Ibid

[16]. Ibid

[17]. CPT holds high-level talks in Bulgaria, Council of Europe, 21 January 2019,

https://www.coe.int/en/web/cpt/-/cpt-holds-high-level-talks-in-bulgaria

[18]. Ibid

[19]. Ibid

Share the story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *