Absolute prohibition of torture

COPCAT Shorts – CTI Best Practices Excluding Torture Evidence

Tired and jaded by constantly reading about COVID-19? Then look no further, dear readers, than the Geneva-based Convention Against Torture Initiative’s (CTI) excellent new tool on best practices excluding torture evidence. The CTI tool, while not exactly the most sunny of reads subject matter-wise, is unquestionably a very useful resource. Better still, it has nothing remotely to do with the wretched coronavirus, currently blighting our lives.

Prepared by the highly respected NGO REDRESS for CTI, the organizations have brought to the fore another exceptionally high quality resource aimed at ensuring adherence to the UN Convention against Torture’s key Article 15, prohibiting the admission of evidence obtained by torture in any proceedings.

The new CTI tool.

Published on 27 April 2020, the accompanying CTI press release outlines the objectives of the tool:

“CTI’s new tool is tailored to State policy-makers, police investigators, prosecutors, medical practitioners and judges, and explains not only the important rationale of Article 15 for the overall effectiveness of investigations and court proceedings, but shares a range of positive State practices. The tool clarifies that the rule of non-admission of the use of evidence obtained by torture puts an important break on corrupt practices, removes one of the primary incentives for abuse, and safeguards due process rights and the fairness of court proceedings. Applying this rule helps dismantle unreliable confession-based policing and results in better and more reliable evidence gathering and investigations.

The tool’s compilation of good State practices are drawn from 24 countries from all geographical regions and showcase legislative, policy and practical ways the “exclusionary rule” is being respected.”

In its opening pages the tool outlines 8 extremely compelling reasons for excluding evidence obtained by way of torture or ill-treatment – notwithstanding the illegality of the practice – which serve as a useful reminder of why this all-important provision must always hold firm.

In order to ensure that torture evidence is excluded in everyday practice, CTI’s resource identifies the key role played by different criminal justice actors, including:

  • Police interviewers and investigators;
  • Prosecutors;
  • Medical practitioners;
  • Judges.

While the tool’s focus on the above actors may not be especially new, the citation of numerous specific country examples very much brings the document to life.

Prison – Anthony Albright (2020).

The CTI tool additionally advances a range of examples of national-focused proceedings and processes which specifically exclude evidence obtained through torture, including from countries as diverse as Australia, South Africa, England and Wales, Brazil and Thailand.

The final section of the tool titled Procedures and Practices to Exclude Torture Evidence: Things to Consider is especially useful. It comprises a list of questions to bear in mind when considering existing laws, procedures and instructions as well as in relation to the implementation of new procedures and encouraging new practices.

Best of all, none of the above has anything to do with the coronavirus. Thus, immense thanks are due to CTI and REDRESS, not only for producing another highly practical and informative resource, but equally for a much-needed distraction from the current gloom-laden news headlines!

Interested readers may also wish to scrutinize more closely CTI’s other excellent resources which form its so-called UNCAT Implementation Tools, all of which are designed to share good practices among states on the effective implementation of the UN Convention against Torture.

Download CTI’s Non-admission of evidence obtained by torture and ill-treatment: Procedures and practices tool.

Learn more about the Convention Against Torture Initiative.

Discover other torture-prevention resources.

Check out Dignity’s legal fact-sheets on torture prevention.

Posted by mp in Absolute prohibition of torture, Publication, Tools, Torture prevention, UNCAT

COPCAT Shorts – ‘Down With Torture!’ Campaign Images

The Canada OPCAT Project has just updated an older section of the website, ‘Down With Torture’ Campaign Images. The updated section has over 75 images, aiming to bring together in one place a collection of hard-hitting and eye-catching campaign images and posters aimed at preventing torture. While a smaller number of images have a specific OPCAT focus, others are more generic in scope. Collectively they remind us why the absolute prohibition of torture must always stand.

Campaign poster

The Amnesty International Germany poster above from 1978 is an illustrative case in point. The very alarming fact that FIFA went ahead with the tournament in Argentina at a time when it was widely known that thousands of people were being made to disappear, while many thousands more were imprisoned and tortured, beggars belief from today’s perspective.

We have added lots of other images to the collection, from new to old, which we hope to build upon with time. If you have any suggestions for the ‘Down With Torture!’ collection, please do send us your ideas. All suggestions are gratefully received. For now please browse at your leisure…

Posted by mp in absolute prohibition, Absolute prohibition of torture, OPCAT

COPCAT Shorts – Canada Sponsors UN General Assembly Resolution on Torture-Free Trade

“Taking note of the launching of the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade,

1. Requests the Secretary-General, with the provisions of resolution 72/163 in mind, to seek the views of Member States on the feasibility and possible scope of a range of options to establish common international standards for the import, export and transfer of goods used for (a) capital punishment, (b) torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to submit a report on the subject to the General Assembly at its seventy-fourth session;

2. Also requests the Secretary-General, on the basis of his report to be submitted to the General Assembly at its seventy-fourth session, to establish a group of governmental experts, to be chosen on the basis of equitable geographical distribution and guided by the need to appoint individuals reflecting the highest standards of efficiency, competence in the fields of human rights and/or international trade, and integrity, to examine, commencing in 2020, the feasibility, scope of the goods to be included and draft parameters for a range of options to establish common international standards on the matter and to transmit the report of the group of experts to the Assembly for consideration at its seventy-fifth session…

The United Nations ‘Knotted Gun’ by JasonParis (2011).

UN General Resolution ‘Towards torture-free trade: examining the feasibility, scope and parameters for possible common international standards’ (UN Doc. A/73/L.94), adopted by the UN General Assembly on 28 June 2019 (emphasis added above).

It was most encouraging that during this week’s UN General Assembly vote on the possibility of bringing into being an international standard on torture-free trade, Canada was one among 51 UN Member States to sponsor the draft UN Resolution on this pressing issue, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in New York on 28 June 2019. The adoption of this key UN Resolution paves the way for the creation of a group of experts to examine the feasibility and scope of such a possible future international standard on torture-free trade.

Canada’s sponsoring of the UN Resolution comes as a very welcome move, more so just two days after the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June. It can only be hoped that Canada will continue to put its political weight behind this long overdue initiative in the months and years ahead. And ratify the OPCAT of course…   

Read the UN General Resolution on torture-free trade.

Read the accompanying UN press release.

Learn more about the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade.

Read more about the Omega Research Foundation’s work on trade in the ‘tools of torture’.

Explore the key related publication Monitoring Weapons and Restraints in Places of Detention: A Practical Guide for Detention Monitors. 

Posted by mp in Absolute prohibition of torture, Torture prevention, Torture-free trade

COPCAT Shorts – Mistreatment & Violence against Women during Reproductive Health Care and Childbirth

Mistreatment and violence against women during reproductive health care and facility-based child birth is a serious violation of women’s human rights which occurs across all geographical and income-level settings. In a statement published in 2014, the World Health Organization reported that disrespectful and abusive treatment occurs during childbirth in facilities and includes “outright physical abuse, profound humiliation and verbal abuse, coercive or unconsented medical procedures (including sterilization), lack of confidentiality, failure to get fully informed consent, refusal to give pain medication, gross violations of privacy, refusal of admission to health facilities, neglecting women during childbirth to suffer life-threatening, avoidable complications, and detention of women and their newborns in facilities after childbirth due to an inability to pay.”

The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Study on mistreatment and violence against women during reproductive health care with a focus on childbirth, April 2019.

UN violence against women expert
Dubravka Simonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women presents her report at the 38th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council, 20 June 2018
– UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Šimonović has identified the issue of mistreatment and violence against women during reproductive health care and childbirth as the subject of her next thematic report to be presented at the 74th session of the General Assembly in September 2019.

Canadian readers will vividly recall that the UN Committee against Torture expressed concern about the forced sterilization of Indigenous women and girls during its examination of Canada in November 2018.  

The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women is seeking views on four questions relating to the issue of mistreatment and violence against women during reproductive health care and childbirth. Canadian civil society is kindly invited to have its say on this key issue.

The deadline for submissions is 17 May 2019. Please see below for more information.

Read more about the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women’s new study.

See what the UN Committee against Torture said about the forced sterilization of Indigenous women and girls in Canada in 2018.

Read more about the UN Special Rapporteur on torture’s recently launched consultation on domestic violence.

Posted by mp in Absolute prohibition of torture, Health care, UN Special Rapporteur, UNCAT

COPCAT Shorts – Domestic Violence: A Veritable Scourge of Inhumanity

“Similar to war, domestic violence is a veritable “scourge” of inhumanity, traumatizing countless children, women and men on a daily basis, and brutalizing human society for generations to come. Contrary to war, however, domestic violence is still largely considered to be a “private matter”, a social taboo to be dealt with at the discretion of the perpetrator in the perceived legal “black hole” of the home. As long as a substantial part of the world’s population is oppressed, abused and even murdered with impunity by their own family members, the promises of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals will remain a far cry from reality. Consequently, though domestic violence may occur in the private sphere, it must be regarded as a global governance matter of inherently public concern.”

UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Domestic Violence and the Prohibition of Torture and Ill-Treatment, 5 April 2019.

Corruption and torture report
Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on torture, UN Human Rights Council 1 March 2017 (copyright UN Geneva/Jean-Marc Ferre).

The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, has opened up a thematic consultation on the phenomenon of domestic violence from the perspective of the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

In his upcoming report on this topic to the UN General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur aims:

(1) To apply the substantive elements of the definition of torture to a broad range of practices commonly understood to fall within the notion of domestic violence;

(2) To analyze the legal obligations arising for States under the prohibition of torture with respect to domestic violence;

(3) And to make recommendations with a view to improving the protection against torture in the context of domestic violence.

Canadian human rights actors can contribute to this crucial public consultation by answer three sets of questions. Please help to put domestic violence in Canada in the international spotlight by responding to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture’s open consultation.

The closing date for responses is 15 May 2019.

Read more about the UN Special Rapporteur’s consultation on domestic violence.

Read Professor Melzer’s recent report on combating corruption and torture.

Read his comments from October 2018 on the danger of backsliding on torture.

Posted by mp in Absolute prohibition of torture, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, UNCAT

COPCAT Shorts: Risk of Backsliding on Torture

Today, not only is the world still plagued by torture, but we are at risk of backsliding on what I consider to be one of the most important achievements in human history: the universal recognition of the absolute, non-derogable and peremptory prohibition of torture and ill-treatment under the same compelling terms as the prohibitions of slavery and of genocide.

Today, all of us bear the historical responsibility to address these challenges and deliver on the promise made by the Universal Declaration of human dignity for all members of the human family, everywhere, at all times and in all circumstances.

Backsliding on torture, Nils Melzer

Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (copyright UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré).

Nils Melzer, United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Statement to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee, New York, 15 October 2018.

Read the full statement here.


Posted by mp in Absolute prohibition of torture, UN Special Rapporteur

Canadian Red Cross Detention & Prohibition of Torture Conference

Dalhousie University in Halifax is set as the scene for this year’s illustrious 14th Annual International Humanitarian Law Conference on 5 October. Co-organized by the Canadian Red Cross and the John E. Read International Law Society at the Schulich School of Law, the event is titled Detention and the Prohibitions against Torture, Cruel, and Unusual Punishment.

Canadian Red CrossAccording to the Canadian Red Cross: “The conference will explore the protections and rules that aim to reduce the occurrence of torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment during armed conflict under both international and national law. Our speakers will provide an introduction to the various legal regimes addressing torture and related humanitarian issues such as detention and internment. Panelists will provide insight into their personal and professional experiences working with both government and NGOs and discuss the challenges that remain in regards to both compliance with, and adequacy of, the current legal regime.”

Interested readers can register for the event by clicking on the Canadian Red Cross symbol above.

Readers can also watch a short ICRC video of the organization’s esteemed work under Electronic OPCAT (in English and French) and read selected ICRC materials under Other Resources.

Posted by mp in Absolute prohibition of torture, Places of detention