Dean Claudio Grossman Addresses General Assembly

by Kenneth Anderson

One of the pleasures of teaching at Washington College of Law is that so many of your colleagues are involved in so many real world public international law activities.  They include our dean, Claudio Grossman, who in his capacity of chair of the UN committee against torture, today addressed the General Assembly.  (I’ll try to provide a webcast link; can’t find one at the UN site at the moment.)  My congratulations to Dean Grossman on his dedication to these and other human rights issues; they form a large part of the identity of WCL.  For those who might not be familiar with the mandate of the committee, here is a bit of Dean Grossman’s statement to the GA:

The Mandate of the Committee

Under the Convention, the Committee against Torture is mandated: (1) to consider country reports, (2) to decide, under certain conditions, individual complaints, (3) to undertake confidential inquiries when it receives reliable information which appears to contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practiced in a State party, and (4) to adopt General Comments.

146 States have ratified or acceded to the Convention, but 39 have never submitted a report to the Committee, thereby violating their obligations and preventing the Committee from fulfilling its monitoring mandate. With regard to the 107 States that have submitted at least one report, the Committee has adopted 267 sets of concluding observations, which identify concerns and provide recommendations, assisting States parties in adopting effective legislative, administrative and judicial measures to prevent torture in their respective territories.

With respect to individual communications, the Committee examines complaints presented by individuals alleging violations by a State party. Only 64 of the 146 States parties have made the declaration recognizing this competence of the Committee, thereby limiting the tools available to supervise full compliance with the Convention. Thus far, 402 individual complaints have been registered. Of those, the Committee has considered 288 complaints and found Convention violations in 48, creating a rich body of jurisprudence. Complainants frequently request preventive protection, particularly in cases concerning imminent expulsion or extradition, where they allege a violation of Convention article 3 on non-refoulement. After the receipt of a complaint, the Committee, through its Rapporteur for new complaints and interim measures, may transmit to the State party concerned a request that it take such interim measures as necessary to avoid irreparable damage to the victim(s) of the alleged violations. Currently 42 interim measures are issued regarding pending cases.

Upon receipt of allegations of systematic practice of torture in a State party, the Committee is also empowered to institute a confidential inquiry, in all States parties except nine which have not recognized this competence. The Committee has undertaken seven of these inquiries and is currently considering others.

As to General Comments, the Committee has adopted two: one in the context of individual complaints, with respect to non-refoulement; and a second on States parties’ obligations to prevent torture under Convention article 2.

More information on the Committee’s activities is available in its annual reports to the General Assembly which, since 2008, also include the report of the Subcommittee on Prevention.

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