Torture Prevention

International Action Against Torture During March 2019

UN Human Rights Committee urged Viet Nam to end torture and ill-treatment

On 11-12 March 2019, the UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, considered the third report of Viet Nam at its 3580th and 3581st meetings, and on 25 March 2019 during its 3599th and 3600th meetings the Committee adopted the the concluding observations. The Committee expressed concern about reports of widespread use of torture and ill-treatment, in particular during pre-trial detention, sometimes resulting in death in custody, including of members of ethnic and religious minorities. It also noted that families face reprisals for questioning the cause of death.[1]

About the condition of detention, the Committee stated that there were consistent reports of poor conditions of detention, including overcrowding, use of prolonged solitary confinement, shackling, abuses by other prisoners at the instigation of prison officials, and non-separation of healthy prisoners from those with contagious diseases, intentional exposure of prisoners to HIV infection, denial of medical care; and punitive transfer of prisoners.[2]

The Committee also expressed concern at reports of increased security crackdowns on human rights defenders and civil society actors, who face threats, intimidation, and physical attacks to discourage them from carrying out their legitimate activities, including for engaging with the United Nations. Another area of concern is the reportedly high number of death sentences and executions in Vietnam.[3]

In its recommendations, the Committee urged Viet Nam to take vigorous measures to eradicate torture and illtreatment, including to ensure that all allegations of torture and ill-treatment and deaths in custody are promptly and thoroughly investigated by an independent and impartial body, that perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, are punished with sanctions consistent with the gravity of the crime, and that victims and, where appropriate, their families are provided with full reparation, including rehabilitation and adequate compensation. It also urged Viet Nam to improve conditions of detention in accordance with the Covenant and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. The country was also asked to ensure human rights defenders and other civil society actors are protected against threats, intimidation and physical attacks, and to allow them to carry out their activities, including engaging with the UN, without fear of restrictions or reprisal.[4]

UN Subcommittee on Torture

I. Subcommittee concerned at prison overcrowding in Costa Rica

On 15 March 2019, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture expressed concern over overcrowding in some places of detention in Costa Rica which it observed during its first visit to the country from 3-14 March 2019. The Subcommittee visited 23 places of detention in different parts of the country, including prisons, police and judicial investigation agencies, and youth training centres and psychiatric establishments. It stated that public policies aimed at reducing overcrowding should not focus on building new prisons, but on making new criminal policies to reduce imprisonment. The Subcommittee will address a confidential report to the government of Costa Rica, which will include its observations and recommendations for how to prevent torture and ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty. The Subcommittee also urged the Costa Rican government to publish this report, which will favour a transparent national dialogue aimed at implementing the Subcommittee’s recommendations.[5]

II. Subcommittee to visit Sri Lanka next month

On 29 March 2019, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture announced that it carry out its first visit to Sri Lanka from 2 to 12 April 2019 to examine the treatment of people deprived of their liberty and the safeguards in place for their protection against torture and ill-treatment. The four-member delegation will meet government officials and hold discussions with relevant ministries, as well as meeting with the Human Rights Commission and civil society organisations. The Subcommittee will visit places of deprivation of liberty and will hold discussions on Sri Lanka establishing an independent National Preventive Mechanism in line with the Optional Protocol, which Sri Lanka ratified in 2017.[6]

III. Subcommittee welcomes establishment of a national preventive mechanism against torture by Panama

In a press statement on 8 March 2019, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture stated that it removed Panama from its list of States significantly overdue in establishing a national preventive mechanism against torture. The action was taken by the Subcommittee during its confidential session held in Geneva from 18 to 22 February 2019 after Panama’s recent establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism against torture.[7]

Reports presented by Special Rapporteur on Torture to 40th Session of HRC

 I. Annual Report highlights importance of combating corruption and torture

The Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Nils Melzer presented the recent annual report during the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva held from 25 February 2019 to 22 March 2019. In his report, the Special Rapporteur examined the relationship between corruption and torture or ill-treatment, outlining the predominant patterns of interaction between the two phenomena as well as their systemic root causes. The report offered a raft of recommendations aimed at strengthening the protection against torture and ill-treatment in contexts affected by corruption. It also highlighted the importance of external oversight in combating corruption and torture.[8]

The Special Rapporteur while examining the correlation between corruption and torture or ill-treatment noted the utmost importance to understand the predominantly structural and systemic nature of both forms of abuse. In the context of policing, the reported said the practice of corruption and of torture or ill-treatment typically goes beyond individual officers and extends to their units or even entire police departments, often exacerbated by collusion at worst or acquiescence at best on the part of the judiciary and open or implicit complacency on the part of policymakers. Overall, the resort by individual officials to corruption or to torture and ill-treatment is more often the result of their professional environment than of their personal character.[9]

The report made several key recommendations, among others, the following:[10]

  • States should adopt and/or ratify, without reservations, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, the Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol and all other universal and regional treaties and soft law instruments relevant to the prevention of corruption and torture and ill-treatment respectively, and should ensure their comprehensive and effective implementation across national legal and institutional frameworks.
  • States should adopt and implement strict policies of zero tolerance for both corruption and torture or ill-treatment throughout all branches and levels of public authority, not only through strict enforcement at the level of individual officials, services and processes, but also through decisive corrective action that may be required at the systemic level. In doing so, States should duly consider the predominant patterns of causal interaction between corruption and torture or illtreatment. In determining criminal culpability for involvement in corruption, they should duly consider mitigating circumstances of coercion, including through risks, threats or acts of torture and ill-treatment. Furthermore, States should complement repressive and corrective action with proactive efforts to ensure adequate funding, training and equipping of public services and institutions, and fostering a general culture of personal and professional integrity throughout all public services.
  • States should establish and maintain accessible, well-resourced and fully independent monitoring, oversight and accountability mechanisms for the prevention of corruption and of torture or ill-treatment including, but not limited to, those foreseen in articles 6 and 36 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and articles 2 and 16 of the Convention against Torture in conjunction with article 3 of its Optional Protocol.
  • In addition to officially mandated mechanisms, States should provide a transparent and safe environment enabling and protecting the monitoring, reporting and advocacy activities of civil society organizations, human rights defenders and whistle-blowers and ensure their unhindered access to individual witnesses, victims or their relatives.
  • While maintaining comprehensive anti-corruption and anti-torture policies and practices, States, monitoring mechanisms and civil society stakeholders should focus their efforts specifically on contexts particularly prone to corruption and torture or ill-treatment.
  • United Nations agencies and mechanisms such as, most notably, UNODC, OHCHR, the Committee against Torture, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, as well as the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, including the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, should systematically examine the interaction between corruption and human rights violations, including torture and ill-treatment, in their respective reporting.

II. Report on visit to Serbia and Kosovo

The Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer presented the report of his country visit to Serbia and Kosovo during the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council held from 25 February 2019 to 22 March 2019. The Special Rapporteur visited Serbia and Kosovo from 13 to 24 November 2017 to assess the prevailing situation, developments and challenges concerning torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.[11]

Nils Melzer informed the HRC that the regular prison systems in both Serbia and Kosovo appeared to be largely free from torture with great investments made towards improving the conditions of detention. However, the Special Rapporteur lamented that numerous allegations of inefficient legal proceedings and excessive pre-trial detention and of frequent ill-treatment during police interrogation had been received.[12]

In his report, the Special Rapporteur observed that the allegations of torture and ill-treatment received by him from Serbia and Kosovo are not isolated incidents, but suggest the existence of pattern of abuse that is well entrenched in the predominant police culture.[13]

The Special Rapporteur made the following recommendations:[14]

To Government of Serbia

  • Amend the definition of the crime of torture under article 137 of the Criminal Code so as to criminalize the full spectrum of acts covered by articles 1 and 16 of the Convention against Torture, significantly increasing the maximum penalties for such offences, and removing all statutes of limitations for such offences
  • Ensure that prosecutors do not apply the shortened procedure when investigating cases of alleged torture and ill-treatment
  • Ensure that any person apprehended by the police gets access to a lawyer before first being questioned by the police
  • Strengthen the capacity of the National Preventive Mechanism, particularly in terms of independent and adequate funding and staffing, and encourage the Deputy Ombudsperson to continue to assume his crucial role as the national preventive mechanism against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • Consolidate and develop ongoing prison reforms to ensure better conditions of detention and prevent any deterioration
  • Provide the regulations, instructions and training required for ensuring the transition from an unreliable, confession-based interrogation system to a modernized forensic, non-coercive investigation methodology aimed at accurate and reliable establishment of the facts
  • Ensure accessible, fully independent, expedient and effective complaints, oversight and investigative mechanisms for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of abuse, not only by police and prison staff, but by officials from all branches and services of government
  • Ensure systematic medical examinations by independent medical personnel trained in the effective investigation, interpretation and documentation of the signs of physical and psychological torture and other forms of ill-treatment, based on the Istanbul Protocol. In particular, ensure that photographic documentation of trauma injuries becomes routine practice, including by making available appropriate equipment in all medical services
  • Establish effective, independent, and multidisciplinary mechanisms for the supervision of institutions for persons with psychosocial disabilities and for the regular review of any decision to institutionalize or deprive such persons of their legal capacity
  • Ensure adequate material conditions in any holding area, including in areas such as airport transit zones, where migrants and asylum seekers may be held pending their deportation or return to their airport of departure

To the authorities in Kosovo

  • Criminalize other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the same comprehensive terms as torture
  • Expressly exclude the admissibility of evidence obtained through torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • Ensure that everyone has access to a lawyer before being first questioned by the police
  • Ensure that everyone has access to a medical doctor promptly after arrest
  • Ensure that all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment are investigated by bodies enjoying full independence from the executive branch and reporting to the legislative or judiciary branches
  • Strengthen the National Preventive Mechanism, particularly in terms of independent and adequate funding and staffing
  • Retract or significantly readjust recently introduced restrictions concerning the reception of food parcels and other relevant benefits for all categories of inmates in Dubrava prison and any other facilities where such restrictions may apply
  • Establish a system of regular and frequent medical visits in all corridors of Dubrava prison and take other appropriate measures to ensure the provision of adequate health-care services in accordance with rules 24–35 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules)
  • Ensure that all prisoners are held in conditions (accommodation, personal hygiene, clothing and bedding, food, exercise and sport) that are at a minimum in accordance with the Nelson Mandela Rules, treated with respect and offered a purposeful range of activities which prepares them for reintegration into the community
  • Guarantee that persons affected by mental disease, disability or distress, including depression and post-traumatic stress, receive appropriate treatment and care by qualified health professionals, including with a view to preventing selfinflicted injuries and suicide
  • Provide the regulations, instructions and training required for ensuring the transition from an unreliable, confessions-based interrogation system to a modernized forensic, non-coercive investigation methodology aimed at accurate and reliable establishment of the facts
  • Ensure accessible, fully independent, expedient and effective complaints, oversight and investigative mechanisms for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of abuse, not only by police and prison staff, but by officials from all branches and services of government
  • Ensure systematic medical examinations by independent medical personnel trained in the effective investigation, interpretation and documentation of the signs of physical and psychological torture and other forms of ill-treatment based on the Istanbul Protocol. In particular, ensure that photographic documentation of trauma injuries becomes routine practice, including by making available appropriate equipment in all medical services
  • Ensure systematic, accurate and reliable police records regarding the moment of apprehension, the time of transfer and the precise duration of police custody
  • Ensure prompt notification of custody to relatives as identified by the person apprehended and prompt and automatic access to ex officio lawyers and confidential medical examinations for all persons apprehended, arrested, or otherwise deprived of their liberty
  • Establish effective, independent and multidisciplinary mechanisms for the supervision and regular review of any decision to institutionalize persons affected by psychosocial disabilities and facilitate deinstitutionalization by introducing community-based alternatives
  • In regard to migrants and asylum seekers, the Special Rapporteur recommends that the authorities in Kosovo refrain from policies of mandatory, prolonged or indefinite detention of migrants. Any migration-related detention should remain an exceptional measure and should be physically separated from detention relating to the criminal justice system. Migrants, especially children, should never be detained solely because of their irregular migration status or simply because they cannot be expelled

In its statement during the interactive session at the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council, Serbia stated that it was determined to be free of any type of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment within its penitentiary institutions through three strategies: improving the conditions in prisons to solve the issue of overcrowding, implementing re-socialization programmes to successfully reinsert prisoners into society, and developing special programmes for vulnerable categories of convicts.  Serbia had also improved the accommodation and health care capacities of its institutions.  To prevent torture in prisons, Serbia had put in place various measures, including training policies for their employees, regular supervision, and informing convicts of their rights and the existing mechanisms to protect those rights. Serbia did not have the mandate to monitor the situation in Kosovo and encouraged those who did to continue to do that work diligently. Serbia did not agree entirely with the report of the Special Rapporteur but took good note of the assessment and would try to benefit from the recommendations.[15]

III. Report on visit to Argentina

The report on the visit to Argentina from 9 to 20 April 2018 by the Special Raporteur with his team was presented for discussion during the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council held at Geneva from 25 February to 22 March 2019.[16]

The Special Rapporteur noted that significant progress had been made with regard to legislative and institutional reform. At the same time, torture and ill-treatment at the hands of police forces still seemed to be a regular occurrence.[17]

According to the report, a large number of persons were detained in police stations for prolonged periods of time due to the lack of capacity in regular detention facilities. Many of these detainees reported that law enforcement officials frequently used violence and threats to harass, provoke or intimidate them and, in some cases, to force them to confess an alleged crime or to denounce others. In addition to threats and insults, law enforcement officials reportedly resorted to kicking and beating, even against persons who were handcuffed or otherwise physically restrained. The Special Rapporteur also received several allegations concerning the use of suffocation techniques, most notably the so-called “submarine” treatment, both “wet” (submerging the head in liquid) and “dry” (covering the head with a plastic bag), the latter method being applied particularly during transfers in police vehicles to police stations after arrest.[18]

The Special Rapporteur received numerous and consistent complaints from detainees about the perceived excessive length of their pretrial detention and the prolonged absence of any meaningful investigative or judicial action taken on the part of the prosecuting or adjudicating authorities, for periods of up to five years. Based on the information provided to the Special Rapporteur, an average of 60 per cent of persons deprived of their liberty in prisons and police stations are in pretrial detention.[19]

The report, among others, made the following recommendations to the Government of Argentina:[20]

  • Comprehensively reform the administration of the justice system with a view to moving away from the current focus on punitive retribution and towards the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders
  • In accordance with article 4 of the Convention against Torture, ensure that all acts of torture inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity (as defined in article 1 of the Convention), including any attempt to commit torture and any complicity or participationin torture, are criminalized; and ensure that such offences are punishable by appropriate penalties that take into account their grave nature
  • Ensure that confessions, testimonies and other information that may have been obtained through torture or other ill-treatment cannot be used as evidence in any judicial, administrative or other proceeding
  • Ensure accessible, fully independent, proactive, expedient and effective complaint, oversight and investigative mechanisms for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of abuse not only by police and prison staff, but also by officials from all relevant branches and services of government
  • Ensure systematic medical examinations by independent medical personnel trained in the effective investigation, interpretation and documentation of the signs of physical and psychological torture and other forms of ill-treatment based on the Istanbul Protocol;in particular, ensure that photographic documentation of trauma injuries becomes routine practice, including by making available appropriate equipment in all medical services
  • Ensure that all detention monitoring bodies, whether officially mandated or operating as part of civil society, have free and unhindered access to places of deprivation of liberty and can carry out their monitoring independently and without any undue interference
  • Refrain from introducing new legislation extending the use of detention to additional categories of persons or offences that do not imperatively require deprivation of liberty
  • Review the reforms introduced under Act No. 27375, which undermine the principle of the gradual reintegration of convicts into society
  • Immediately cease holding detainees in police stations and other facilities not designed for long-term detention
  • Ensure accessible, fully independent, proactive, expedient and effective complaints, oversight and investigative mechanisms for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of corrupt practices not only by police and prison staff, but also by officials from all relevant branches, services of government and the judiciary that may negatively impact on the conditions of detention and treatment of inmates
  • Create a unified registration system for acts of institutional violence and victims of torture and ill-treatment, and ensure that allegations of torture and ill-treatment trigger a prompt, thorough and independent investigation to bring those responsible to justice and provide reparations to the victims
  • In line with the Bangkok Rules and to the maximum extent possible, apply alternatives to the deprivation of liberty, such as house arrest accompanied by adequate social and economic measures for female suspects or offenders who are pregnant or have care responsibilities for dependent minors
  • Develop protocols ensuring that indigenous people deprived of their liberty can observe their religious and spiritual practices and exercise their right to freedom of expression on the same terms as other inmates

During the interactive session, in its statement to the report of the Special Rapporteur, Argentina said it had carefully read the report and found it to be detailed and exhaustive.  The country expressed commitment to further strengthen national human rights mechanisms, particularly the National Mechanism against Torture.[21]

  1. Report on visit to Ukraine

From 28 May to 8 June 2018, the Special Rapporteur conducted an official visit to Ukraine. The report on the visit was presented for discussion during the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council held at Geneva from 25 February to 22 March 2019.[22]

In his speech, the Special Rapporteur informed the Human Rights Council that the regular prison system seemed to be largely free from torture, and significant progress had been made in reducing formal police custody in In Ukraine.  However, there were still numerous allegations of torture by the national police and the State Security Service. In the territories controlled by armed groups in Donetsk and Luhansk, only three places of detention were visited, all of which had been pre-selected, and the Special Rapporteur was not permitted to speak to inmates without the presence of guards. The Special Rapporteur urged the authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk to permit regular, independent and impartial international monitoring.[23]

According to the report, the Special Rapporteur received numerous allegations of torture and ill-treatment at the hands of the police, including against juveniles as young as 14, almost always occurring at the time of apprehension and interrogation. Most inmates reported that such treatment was used by investigative officers to intimidate them or to force them to confess to an alleged crime. In addition to threats and insults, police officers reportedly resorted to kicking and beating, suffocation techniques, most notably by placing plastic bags over the head, or suspension and prolonged stress positions. Numerous inmates also reported having been electrocuted and, in some cases, subjected to mock executions. Several detainees showed signs of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and some still displayed visible marks of ill-treatment and torture. Others reported having been subjected to techniques of torture specifically designed to leave no marks including, inter alia, beatings with a thick book or on the soles of the feet and suffocation techniques, such as water submersion.[24]

Several allegations were also received of excessive use of force at the time of or immediately following apprehension, including kicks and truncheon blows after the apprehended person had been placed face down on the ground and handcuffed, of unduly tight handcuffing during transportation, of death threats and of threats to inflict pain or use violence (including rape with objects) during questioning.[25]

The report also stated that the Special Rapporteur received allegations of conflict-related torture and ill-treatment. As per the report, the majority of allegations documented by the Special Rapporteur were said to have occurred in the context of detention by the Security Service. Detainees accused of crimes linked to the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine reported having been tortured in order to extract information regarding their involvement, perceived or actual, in separatist activities or to identify armed groups’ military positions. The methods reportedly used included suffocation with gas masks, dislocation of joints, electric shocks and mock executions. Interviewees also reported having received death threats, against both themselves and their families, and having been systematically denied access to medical care.[26]

The Special Rapporteur observed that formal investigations into the numerous allegations of torture and ill-treatment appear to be rare on both sides of the conflict line, thus creating a strong perception of impunity.[27]

Some of the key recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur to Ukraine included as under:[28]

  • Amend the Criminal Code of Ukraine to align it with international standards and practice and to ensure accountability for acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • Ensure that statements or confessions taken from persons deprived of their liberty, other than those made in the presence of a judge and with the assistance of legal counsel, have no probative value in proceedings against that person, and that confessions and testimonies that may have been obtained through torture or other illtreatment are not used in any proceedings
  • Ensure that fundamental safeguards are granted to all persons deprived of their liberty without exception, such as the right to be informed of their rights and about the reasons for their arrest, the right to inform their family of their arrest and whereabouts, the right to a lawyer, the right to see a medical doctor and the right not to self-incriminate and not to sign documents of unknown content
  • Ensure and facilitate regular, effective and independent monitoring of all institutions or locations where individuals may be deprived of their liberty, by national and local bodies such the national preventive mechanism, by specialized civil society organizations and by the relevant international and regional bodies, such as the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ICRC and the relevant special procedure mandate holders
  • Ensure prompt, thorough and impartial investigation and prosecution of all alleged offences involving torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including those reported to have been committed in a context of armed conflict
  • Permit regular, independent and impartial international monitoring, including through ICRC and OHCHR, based on the principles of unrestricted and unannounced access to all places of detention and the complete privacy of interviews with all inmates in Donetsk and Luhansk
  • Allow unimpeded access to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea for all regional and international human rights bodies to monitor the human rights situation in accordance with their mandates by the Russian Federation

In its reply to the report of the Special Rapporteur during the 40th Session, Ukraine, speaking as a concerned country, said that constructive findings of the Special Rapporteur would contribute to addressing all shortcomings in law enforcement and prison systems in Ukraine. With respect to the delay on granting access to the delegation to the psycho-neurological facility for women in Kyiv, it said disciplinary sanctions had been imposed on responsible officials. Ukraine, however, said it was astonished that the Special Rapporteur thanked armed groups and de facto authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk for their cooperation and the Government of Ukraine saw this as unacceptable. It also said that a number of recommendations were welcomed, and many were in the process of implementation, including the draft law on amending certain legislative acts to ensure the harmonization of criminal legislation with international law. While Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner on Human Rights drew particular attention to the cruel treatment of Ukrainian Citizens in Donetsk and Crimea including detainees who were subjected to beatings, torture and inhumane living conditions and did not have access to medical treatment.[29]

Interventions by UN Experts

I. UN rights chief concerned at use of torture in Sri Lanka and Venezuala

On 20 March 2019, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet presented reports on the situation in nine countries, including Sri Lanka and Venezuela as mandated by the UN Human Rights Council. On Sri Lanka, the High Commissioner, among others, highlighted the continuing allegations of torture and other human rights violations by security forces, including sexual violence, and called for an end to surveillance and reprisals targeting human rights defenders, and victims. On Venezuela, she expressed concern about the continued criminalisation of peaceful protest and dissent, citing reports of numerous violations and abuses by security forces and pro-Government armed groups, including excessive use of force, killings, arbitrary detentions, torture and ill-treatment in detention, and threats and intimidation.[30]

II. UN experts urges China to investigate custodial death of human rights defender Cao Shunli

On 14 March 2019, a group of UN human rights experts including Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer urged China to conduct a comprehensive and independent investigation into the custodial death of human rights defender, Cao Shunli on 14 March 2014. Renewing the call, the experts said that Cao Shunli’s case is emblematic of the struggle that many human rights defenders in China face. Cao Shunli was arrested on 14 September 2013 at Beijing International Airport while attempting to travel to Geneva to attend an NGO event on cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms during the Human Rights Council session. Her whereabouts remained unknown for five weeks, until she resurfaced in custody, charged with “provocation”. During her incarceration, Cao Shunli’s health seriously deteriorated, allegedly due to torture, ill-treatment, and authorities’ failure to provide her access to medical care. She was admitted to hospital in a critical condition on 19 February 2014, and died on 14 March 2014. The experts also said that human rights defenders in the country are at risk of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment in custody for their work.[31]

EU’s action against torture

I. CPT visits Italy to examine situation of prisoners

From 12 to 22 March 2019, a delegation of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) carried out an ad hoc visit to Italy. The purpose of the visit was to examine the situation of prisoners placed under high and maximum security regime (the so-called “41-bis regime”) as well as various “isolation” and segregation measures (such as court-imposed isolation to life-sentenced prisoners). The delegation also reviewed the treatment of persons subject to a security detention measure. In the course of the visit, the delegation held consultations with senior government officials, law enforcement authorities, representatives of the civil society, etc. At the end of the visit, the delegation presented its preliminary observations to the competent authorities.[32]

II. CPT concerned at abuse of prisoners in Romania

On 19 March 2019, Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published the report on its visit to Romania carried out from 7-19 February 2018. The Committee raised concerns over abuse of prisoners by staff, inter-prisoner violence and allegations of police ill-treatment. The report details several allegations of ill-treatment by staff corroborated by medical evidence, and raises serious concerns over the lack of recording of injuries by the health care service and failures to investigate allegations effectively. The report also documents several cases of severe beatings and sexual abuse by prisoners in their cells, notably among young adult prisoners at Bacău Prison.[33]

III. CPT urges Russia to carry out effective investigations into torture allegations

On 11 March 2019, the CPT issued a public statement urging the Russian authorities to take decisive action to eradicate the phenomenon of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials in the Chechen Republic and elsewhere in the Northern Caucasian region of the Russian Federation. It also urged the Russian Federation to carry out effective investigations into allegations of torture in the Northern Caucasian region. The public statement was made in application of Article 10 (2) of the European Convention on the Prevention of Torture which provides that the Committee itself may issue a public statement if a Party to the Convention “fails to co-operate or refuses to improve the situation in the light of the Committee’s recommendations”.[34]


Endnotes:

[1]. CCPR/C/VNM/CO/R.3, Concluding observations on the third periodic report of Viet Nam, 28 March 2019, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CCPR/Shared%20Documents/VNM/CCPR_C_VNM_CO_3_34488_E.pdf

[2]. CCPR/C/VNM/CO/R.3, Concluding observations on the third periodic report of Viet Nam, 28 March 2019, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CCPR/Shared%20Documents/VNM/CCPR_C_VNM_CO_3_34488_E.pdf

[3]. CCPR/C/VNM/CO/R.3, Concluding observations on the third periodic report of Viet Nam, 28 March 2019, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CCPR/Shared%20Documents/VNM/CCPR_C_VNM_CO_3_34488_E.pdf

[4]. CCPR/C/VNM/CO/R.3, Concluding observations on the third periodic report of Viet Nam, 28 March 2019, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CCPR/Shared%20Documents/VNM/CCPR_C_VNM_CO_3_34488_E.pdf

[5]. Costa Rica: UN human rights experts concerned about overcrowding in prisons, OHCHR, 15 March 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24343&LangID=E

[6]. UN torture prevention body to visit Sri Lanka, OHCHR, 29 March 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24424&LangID=E

[7]. UN torture prevention body to visit Argentina, the State of Palestine, and Sri Lanka in 2019, OHCHR, 8 March 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24286&LangID=E

[8]. A/HRC/40/59, Annual Report of SR on Torture, 16 January 2019, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G19/007/75/PDF/G1900775.pdf?OpenElement

[9]. A/HRC/40/59, Annual Report of SR on Torture, 16 January 2019, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G19/007/75/PDF/G1900775.pdf?OpenElement

[10]. A/HRC/40/59, Annual Report of SR on Torture, 16 January 2019, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G19/007/75/PDF/G1900775.pdf?OpenElement

[11]. Clustered interactive dialogue on human rights defenders and on torture, Human Rights Council , 28 February 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/SP/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=24237&LangID=S

[12]. Clustered interactive dialogue on human rights defenders and on torture, Human Rights Council , 28 February 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/SP/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=24237&LangID=S

[13]. A/HRC/40/59/Add.1, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on his visit to Serbia and Kosovo, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G19/019/18/PDF/G1901918.pdf?OpenElement

[14]. A/HRC/40/59/Add.1, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on his visit to Serbia and Kosovo, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G19/019/18/PDF/G1901918.pdf?OpenElement

[15]. Clustered interactive dialogue on human rights defenders and on torture, Human Rights Council , 28 February 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/SP/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=24237&LangID=S

[16]. A/HRC/40/59/Add.2, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on his visit to Argentina, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session40/Pages/ListReports.aspx

[17]. Clustered interactive dialogue on human rights defenders and on torture, Human Rights Council , 28 February 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/SP/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=24237&LangID=S

[18]. A/HRC/40/59/Add.2, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on his visit to Argentina, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session40/Pages/ListReports.aspx

[19]. A/HRC/40/59/Add.2, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on his visit to Argentina, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session40/Pages/ListReports.aspx

[20]. A/HRC/40/59/Add.2, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on his visit to Argentina, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session40/Pages/ListReports.aspx

[21]. Clustered interactive dialogue on human rights defenders and on torture, Human Rights Council , 28 February 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/SP/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=24237&LangID=S

[22]. A/HRC/40/59/Add.3, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on his visit to Ukraine, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G19/010/58/PDF/G1901058.pdf?OpenElement

[23]. Clustered interactive dialogue on human rights defenders and on torture, Human Rights Council , 28 February 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/SP/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=24237&LangID=S

[24]. A/HRC/40/59/Add.3, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on his visit to Ukraine, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G19/010/58/PDF/G1901058.pdf?OpenElement

[25]. A/HRC/40/59/Add.3, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on his visit to Ukraine, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G19/010/58/PDF/G1901058.pdf?OpenElement

[26]. A/HRC/40/59/Add.3, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on his visit to Ukraine, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G19/010/58/PDF/G1901058.pdf?OpenElement

[27]. A/HRC/40/59/Add.3, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on his visit to Ukraine, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G19/010/58/PDF/G1901058.pdf?OpenElement

[28]. A/HRC/40/59/Add.3, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on his visit to Ukraine, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G19/010/58/PDF/G1901058.pdf?OpenElement

[29]. Clustered interactive dialogue on human rights defenders and on torture, Human Rights Council , 28 February 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/SP/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=24237&LangID=S

[30]. Bachelet briefs States on Colombia, Cyprus, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Venezuela and Yemen, OHCHR, 20 March 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24377&LangID=E

[31]. China: UN experts renew calls for probe into death of Cao Shunli, OHCHR, 14 March 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24331&LangID=E

[32]. See https://www.coe.int/en/web/cpt/-/council-of-europe-anti-torture-committee-carries-out-visit-to-italy-focusing-on-prison-establishments

[33]. See https://www.coe.int/en/web/cpt/-/romania-council-of-europe-anti-torture-committee-raises-concerns-over-abuse-of-prisoners-by-staff-inter-prisoner-violence-and-allegations-of-police-il

[34]. See https://www.coe.int/en/web/cpt/-/council-of-europe-anti-torture-committee-urges-the-russian-federation-to-carry-out-effective-investigations-into-allegations-of-torture-in-the-norther

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