Reporting

Reporting to the UN Committee against Torture

Reporting to the Committee against Torture can create positive changes towards, for example, administering fair and efficient justice, reforming prison services and improving conditions, and overhauling policing practices. The reporting process is an ongoing one, reflecting that implementation of the Convention happens over time. It involves periodic conversations with the UN’s committee of experts and can include opportunities for States to consult and engage with a wide range of relevant national stakeholders.

As part of the process, States take part in a constructive dialogue with the Committee, which involves consideration of a submitted State party report and a face-to-face meeting in Geneva over two half days. States may request holding of the oral review by video conference. During the review, the Committee will acknowledge positive actions taken by the State being reviewed to implement the Convention, ask questions of the State representatives in a constructive format for further information or explanations, and offer tailored advice and recommendations on areas for improvement. Such areas of improvement may include how States can review or adjust their national laws, adopt or update anti-torture strategies or action plans, or take operational measures to improve performance of relevant government agencies.

As part of the process, States take part in a constructive dialogue with the Committee, which involves consideration of a submitted State party report and a face-to-face meeting in Geneva over two half days. States may request holding of the oral review by video conference. During the review, the Committee will acknowledge positive actions taken by the State being reviewed to implement the Convention, ask questions of the State representatives in a constructive format for further information or explanations, and offer tailored advice and recommendations on areas for improvement. Such areas of improvement may include how States can review or adjust their national laws, adopt or update anti-torture strategies or action plans, or take operational measures to improve performance of relevant government agencies.

The Reporting Cycle: Want to learn more? Read CTI’s tool on reporting here.

To assist States parties, the Committee has introduced a shortened procedure, through which States may request to receive a “list of issues prior to reporting”, to which they respond to those questions. This removes the need for producing a separate stand-alone report, and the responses by the State party are considered by the Committee as the “report”, upon which the dialogue would focus.

The Convention against Torture and the regular reviews by the Committee are useful to States parties in identifying effective measures to prevent torture. Many provisions of the Convention are very specific preventive measures, for instance, the obligation to regularly review the arrangements and procedures for arrest and custody. And the independent experts in the Committee can pinpoint where a particular State party needs to focus.

H.E. Jens Modvig, Chairperson of the UN Committee against Torture

Good State reporting practices!

  • National Mechanisms for Reporting, Implementation and Follow-up (NMRIFs): States may find it useful to establish national bodies or committees to assist in the preparation of reports and monitor their progress on implementation (so-called NMRIFs). National Mechanisms may help:
  • Provide a focus for gathering relevant and up-to-date data
  • Coordinate responses and strengthen interactions between national stakeholders
  • Provide a focal point to engage with international and regional human rights bodies
  • Facilitate implementation and follow-up by disseminating and monitoring progress
  • Reduce the costs associated with reporting
  • Build human rights expertise within the government
  • Consultations: When preparing reports and implementing Committee’s recommendations, States consult across government departments, and may also draw benefit from engaging and keeping informed a range of other stakeholders such as human rights institutions, national preventive mechanisms (NPMs) and NGOs. Consultations can assist States:
  • Gather accurate and relevant information
  • Establish lines of communication
  • Build trust and transparency between State institutions and other actors
  • Assist with follow-up and implementation
  • Using dialogue from the reporting process: The Committee’s “concluding observations” and recommendations can help State parties inform domestic strategies and implementation efforts. At the time of ratification, it is not expected that States have a perfect record, but rather they show progress in addressing challenges. It could be helpful for States to:
  • Put a system in place to cluster recommendations by themes across treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to help better analyse recommendations, identify duplications, and prioritise concerns
  • Disseminate outcomes from constructive dialogue sessions to a range of stakeholders in order to increase transparency, build coalitions, and offer opportunities to publicise implementation efforts

Costs of reporting

A common question States have is about the the financial implications of treaty implementation, and in particular concerning reporting to the UN Committee against Torture. Given the multiple and growing UN mechanisms to which States need to report periodically, this may be a very real concern, especially for States with limited resources. In CTI’s experience, developing States may partially overcome this challenge by seeking assistance from partners, including other States, OHCHR, UNDP and civil society, who may provide technical or financial assistance in order to facilitate the process of reporting to the Committee. The establishment of NMRIFs has also helped considerably to avoid the need to create and resource ad hoc bodies, and the costs associated with hiring external consultants. Reporting and implementing international and regional treaties are also best viewed as integral components of government functionality.

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