The United Nations Committee Against Torture and its Role in Refugee Protection

Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 403-413, Spring 2001

11 Pages Posted: 28 May 2011 Last revised: 7 Mar 2015

See all articles by Peter T. Burns

Peter T. Burns

University of British Columbia (UBC), Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2001

Abstract

The United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment' (the Torture Convention) had its formal genesis in a General Assembly resolution in 1984 and came into effect on June 26, 1987. In its preamble it makes clear its goal of reinforcing the struggle to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment throughout the world. It does this in a variety of ways. Pursuant to Article 19 of the Torture Convention States Parties are obliged to submit reports to a Committee of experts created by Article 18 (the Committee). These reports are required to outline the measures taken by the state to ensure, among other things, the prohibition of torture, the pursuit and prosecution of torturers and the compensation and rehabilitation of torture victims. The same requirements extend to other cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment. The Committee receives the reports, analyzes and comments upon them and issues appropriate conclusions and recommendations. This reporting obligation applies to all States Parties and receiving reports is the most fundamental jurisdiction exercised by the Committee. The Committee also has jurisdiction, under Article 21, to adjudicate in situations where one State Party has denounced another for breaching the terms of the Convention. To date, no such denunciation has occurred. The Convention is unique among the United Nations Human Rights treaties in granting, by virtue of Article 20, a confidential investigative jurisdiction. But this is a jurisdiction that is dependent upon a number of qualifications. It can only be exercised if the state party, under Article 28(1), has not at the time of ratification reserved against such jurisdiction, and if the Committee is convinced that it has received reliable information which appears to it to contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practiced in the territory of the State Party. It also obliges the Committee to attempt to obtain the cooperation of the State Party in implementing Article 20. It is the last type of jurisdiction, however, that is most directly relevant to the theme of this workshop. Article 22 grants the Committee the jurisdiction to receive individual complaints from persons who claim to have been victims of violations of the Torture Convention. Article 22 only applies to those States Parties that have declared in favor of this jurisdiction. This jurisdiction is known as the communications process.

Keywords: Refugees, Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment, Punishment (1984)

Suggested Citation

Burns, Peter T., The United Nations Committee Against Torture and its Role in Refugee Protection (2001). Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 403-413, Spring 2001, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1809021

Peter T. Burns (Contact Author)

University of British Columbia (UBC), Faculty of Law ( email )

1822 East Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z1
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