The commitment to ban torture lacks credibility across the globe, says UN special rapporteur
Governments across the world lack credible commitment to the absolute and universal prohibition of torture and ill treatment, Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, said on Monday.
Most of the governments are defensive, dismissive or evasive over allegations of such abuse, he said in a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.
The UN experts accused the governments of ensuring impunity and depriving the victims.
“While the reactions of governments to allegations and requests transmitted to them range from complete silence to aggressive rejection, unsubstantiated denial, bureaucratic obstruction and even sophisticated forms of pretence, the common denominator of all of these patterns is that they ensure impunity for torturers and deprive victims of reparation and redress,” he said.
Melzer said based on some 500 official communications transmitted to states from 2016 to 2020, 90% of the responses consistently fell short of the standards of cooperation required by the UN Human Rights Council.
“Over the years, nine out of 10 allegations of torture and ill treatment officially transmitted to governments in all regions of the world either have been completely ignored or otherwise did not receive a response permitting to effectively prevent, investigate or redress the violation in question,” he said.
A similar lack of cooperation also persists when special rapporteurs ask for official country visits, particularly in states where torture and ill treatment are reported to be frequent, he added.
“Approximately 80% of our country visit requests have been ignored, postponed or declined by governments. This has prevented us from carrying out independent monitoring visits where they are most needed,” Melzer said.
Even countries that have issued standing invitations to UN experts ignore or reject country visit requests, failing to honour their own commitments, he added.
“The absolute and universal prohibition of torture and ill treatment is not some kind of declaratory slogan to be routinely repeated and celebrated at international conferences, but that it inevitably requires the political determination to take difficult decisions and the courage to face uncomfortable truths – not elsewhere, but right there at home," said the expert.
He recommended that the Office of the High Commissioner lead a multi-stakeholder process aimed at identifying agreed generic standards for assessing and improving the effectiveness of the interaction of states with mandated human rights experts in all areas of their work, including – in particular – official communications, country visits and thematic reporting.