Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Recent Reports 
 Support HRW 
About HRW
Site Map

Human Rights Watch - Home Page


Excerpts from the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Article 17

1. There shall be established a Committee against Torture (hereinafter referred to as the Committee) which shall carry out the functions hereinafter provided. The Committee shall consist of ten experts of high moral standing and recognized competence in the field of human rights, who shall serve in their personal capacity. The experts shall be elected by the States Parties, consideration being given to equitable geographical distribution and to the usefulness of the participation of some persons having legal experience.

Article 19

1. The States Parties shall submit to the Committee, through the Secretary-General of the United Nations, reports on the measures they have taken to give effect to their undertakings under this Convention, within one year after the entry into force of the Convention for the State Party concerned. Thereafter the States Parties shall submit supplementary reports every four years on any new measures taken and such other reports as the Committee may request.

2. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall transmit the reports to all States Parties.

3. Each report shall be considered by the Committee which may make such general comments on the report as it may consider appropriate and shall forward these to the State Party concerned. That State Party may respond with any observations it chooses to the Committee.

4. The Committee may, at its discretion, decide to include any comments made by it in accordance with paragraph 3 of this article, together with the observations thereon received from the State Party concerned, in its annual report made in accordance with article 24. If so requested by the State Party concerned, the Committee may also include a copy of the report submitted under paragraph I of this article.

Article 20

1. If the Committee receives reliable information which appears to it to contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practised in the territory of a State Party, the Committee shall invite that State Party to co-operate in the examination of the information and to this end to submit observations with regard to the information concerned.

2. Taking into account any observations which may have been submitted by the State Party concerned, as well as any other relevant information available to it, the Committee may, if it decides that this is warranted, designate one or more of its members to make a confidential inquiry and to report to the Committee urgently.

3. If an inquiry is made in accordance with paragraph 2 of this article, the Committee shall seek the co-operation of the State Party concerned. In agreement with that State Party, such an inquiry may include a visit to its territory.

4. After examining the findings of its member or members submitted in accordance with paragraph 2 of this article, the Commission shall transmit these findings to the State Party concerned together with any comments or suggestions which seem appropriate in view of the situation.

5. All the proceedings of the Committee referred to in paragraphs I to 4 of this article shall be confidential, and at all stages of the proceedings the co-operation of the State Party shall be sought. After such proceedings have been completed with regard to an inquiry made in accordance with paragraph 2, the Committee may, after consultations with the State Party concerned, decide to include a summary account of the results of the proceedings in its annual report made in accordance with article 24.

Concluding Observations on Russia's Second Periodic Report to the U.N. Committee against Torture

A/52/44, paras.31-43

14 November 1996

Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture : Russian Federation. 14/11/96. A/52/44, paras.31-43.

(Concluding Observations/Comments)



Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

A. Russian Federation

31. The Committee considered the second periodic report of the Russian Federation (CAT/C/17/Add.15) at its 264th, 265th and 268th meetings, held on 12 and 14 November 1996 (see CAT/C/SR.264, 265 and 268), and adopted the following conclusions and recommendations.

1. Introduction

32. The second periodic report of the Russian Federation was not submitted on time, a fact that may be attributed to the transition that the country is undergoing. The report conforms, on the whole, to the guidelines adopted by the Committee for the submission of State reports.

33. The Committee expresses its appreciation to the representatives of the Russian Federation for their presentation of the report and especially for the effort made to answer almost all of the many questions raised by the Rapporteur, the Co-Rapporteur and the members of the Committee.

2. Positive aspects

34. The Constitution of the Russian Federation safeguards human rights in a comprehensive way, including the right to personal safety and bodily integrity.

35. The Constitution prohibits torture and every form of degrading treatment of the individual.

36. The introduction of a new criminal code is welcomed, particularly in view of the criminalization of a series of acts the commission of which by law enforcement agents would constitute torture.

37. The setting up of the Presidential Commission on Human Rights and the establishment of an ombudsman for human rights are, without doubt, steps in the right direction. The positive aspects of the creation of those offices will be further enhanced if their powers to monitor the application of the Convention and deal with abuses are comprehensively defined.

38. The withdrawal of the reservation to article 20 and the declarations of acceptance of the procedures under articles 21 and 22 of the Convention are welcomed.

39. The allocation of additional resources for the improvement of prison conditions, as referred to by the delegation, is a step forward.

40. The will to reform State institutions, albeit with difficulty, in order to bring them into conformity with the provisions of the Constitution and fundamental human rights norms is duly noted.

3. Factors and difficulties impeding the application of the provisions of the Convention

41. The Committee acknowledges the existence of the following difficulties:

(a) The break with the past left an institutional vacuum that is proving difficult to fill. The State apparatus, as experience teaches, is resistant to change;

(b) The reorientation of State institutions and machinery is a difficult process. However, awareness of the obstacles to this process should lead those in authority to redouble the efforts to overcome them;

© The absence of properly trained personnel in sufficient numbers to make possible a swift change to the legal framework and the manner of running the State which is envisaged by the Constitution;

(d) The vastness of the country and diffusion of authority between central and regional authorities places additional difficulties in the way of establishing the new order;

(e) The lack of adequate resources to address the problems that are being encountered in the change from the old to the new legal order; the allocation of the necessary resources for the reform of legal practices should be seen as a priority.

4. Subjects of concern

42. The Committee is concerned about the following:

(a) The failure to create a specific crime of torture in the domestic law, as required by article 4 of the Convention;

(b) Presidential Decrees Nos. 1815 of 2 November 1993, 1226 of 14 June 1994 and 1025 of 10 July 1996, which allow the detention of suspects incommunicado for up to 9 days in one case and 30 days in the other cases, leave the door open to the abuse of the rights of detainees;

© Widespread allegations of torture and ill-treatment of suspects and persons in custody with a view to securing confessions, general allegations of ill-treatment of detainees and the absence of effective machinery to address such complaints promptly;

(d) The fact that, according to the materials presented to the Committee, young soldiers in the Russian army were brutalized by older soldiers without the authorities taking appropriate remedial measures;

(e) The failure to establish effective machinery for the prompt examination of prisoners' complaints about ill-treatment and conditions in prisons;

(f) The slow rate of harmonizing domestic legislation with the Constitution and with norms concerning human rights. The disharmony leaves a gap between the legal order respecting human rights established under the Constitution and the application of the law;

(g) Overcrowding in prisons, made all the worse by the poor and insanitary conditions prevailing in them;

(h) Lack of proper training of police and prison personnel and the personnel of agencies engaged in law enforcement with regard to the rights of suspects and prisoners and their duties under the law;

(I) Lack of appropriate measures to give comprehensive effect to the provisions of article 3 of the Convention and to ensure its applicability in all relevant circumstances, including in relation to extradition;

(j) Absence of extraterritorial jurisdiction makes difficult or impossible the implementation of article 5, paragraph 1 (b), of the Convention;

(k) Reported widespread abuses of human rights in the conflict in Chechnya, including acts of torture, and the apparent failure to check such abuses and address them speedily and effectively.

5. Recommendations

43. The Committee recommends that the State party:

(a) Make torture as defined in the Convention a distinct crime, with sufficiently severe punishment to reflect the gravity of the offence;

(b) Expedite the process of training the personnel, including the medical personnel, of all agencies involved in law enforcement and the detention of prisoners as to their powers and duties under the law;

© Adopt programmes to inform detainees and the public of their rights and the means available under the law to protect them;

(d) Establish effective machinery to monitor the conditions under which investigations of crimes are conducted, the conditions under which persons are held in custody and conditions in prisons;

(e) Establish an appropriate process for the prompt investigation of complaints of suspects, detainees and prisoners and the prosecution of the offenders;

(f) Radically improve conditions in prisons, including space, facilities, food and sanitation;

(g) Abolish acts, rules and regulations allowing remand in custody for longer than 48 hours without judicial authorization, and those limiting access to legal assistance. Unimpeded access to counsel should be safeguarded at all times;

(h) Establish an independent committee to investigate allegations of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment committed by the military forces of the Russian Federation and Chechen separatists, with a view to bringing to justice those against whom there is evidence tending to establish their involvement or complicity in such acts.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page