Location:New York, USA
DATE & TIME
The Convention against Torture Initiative’s (CTI) Annual Forum, held this week in New York, was an important opportunity for reflection, as well as for renewed hope and action.
The highlight of the 2017 Forum’s programme was a discussion on good State practices, as well as opportunities and challenges in realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its interface with the CTI’s work to prevent torture through inter-State dialogue, cooperation and technical assistance. SDG16 commits States “to promote peaceful, inclusive societies for sustainable development, to provide access to justice for all and to build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.”
In his opening remarks on behalf of the CTI spearheading States of Chile, Denmark, Ghana, Indonesia and Morocco, H.E. Mr. Ib Petersen, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Denmark to the UN in New York, informed the participants that over 80 governments had taken part at senior level in CTI events this year drawn from all regions of the world. This figure is nearly double the impressive number of States that had already participated in CTI events in 2016**. Comoros and São Tomé & Principle were praised for having ratified the Convention this year, while Madagascar and Sri Lanka were congratulated for having joined the UNCAT’s Optional Protocol. More and more countries are actively taking steps to implement the UN Convention against Torture’s key provisions; many others are working closely with the CTI to move towards ratification. For many countries however, ratifying and implementing the UNCAT remains a challenge.
The challenge is not only a question of political will, it is also one of capacity. Participant Mr. Gisle Kvanvig of the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, who has been working closely with police services in a number of countries, noted that “institutions are no stronger than the individuals employed by them and their competencies.” A focus on know-how and expertise is therefore key, with the CTI’s latest UNCAT Implementation Tools, which are online resources sharing how different States have managed particular issues, were mentioned among others. In a similar vein, Mr. Craig Mokhiber, Director of the New York Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted in his opening remarks that preventing torture and mistreatment by public authorities is a development issue: “Without the institutions and legislation to prohibit, prosecute and punish acts of abuse, we cannot eliminate torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment.” He praised the CTI and its ambition, stating that: “In a century that has not been free from torture, the CTI is a source of hope.” He added that “[The CTI] is unusual because it has been formed by a group of duty-bearers.”
The UNCAT provides not only a normative framework, but also a practical step-by-step guide on how to administer justice guided by respect for human dignity and equality. Ms. Felice Gaer, Vice-Chairperson of the UN Committee against Torture, acknowledged that SDG16 with its focus on the administration of justice and elimination of violence, “is the bread and butter of the Committee’s work to support and advise States on implementing the UNCAT.” Research undertaken in Uganda in advance of the adoption of anti-torture legislation, presented by Ms. Ruth Sskendi from the Ugandan Human Rights Commission, showed that those more at risk of mistreatment by the authorities tend to be vulnerable, illiterate, and living in poverty. In the spirit of the SDGs’ overarching goal not to “leave anyone behind,” the interconnections between the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development and UNCAT ratification and implementation are clear, even if not yet well-understood by all. In this spirit, States were encouraged to think through how national development plans could incorporate action to prevent torture and other abuses in order to foster open and peaceful societies free from violence in all its forms.
Positive experiences from Argentina and Georgia were also shared, along with the work being undertaken by New York University’s Center on International Cooperation to advance SDG16.
The CTI stands ready to support any State interested in discussing these issues. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with the CTI Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CTI thanks our partner, the Universal Rights Group, for organising the Forum for the CTI.