Human Rigths: UN Committee against Torture publishes findings on Burundi, Costa Rica, Denmark, Egypt, Kiribati, Slovenia

Geneva, Nov 25, 2023.- The UN Committee against Torture (CAT) today issued its findings on Burundi, Costa Rica, Denmark, Egypt, Kiribati and Slovenia, after reviewing the six States parties in its latest session.

The findings contain the Committee’s main concerns and recommendations on each country’s implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Key highlights include:

The Committee was alarmed by credible allegations of ill-treatment and torture, extrajudicial execution and enforced disappearance in Burundi since the political crisis of 2015. It was particularly troubled by ongoing reports of extrajudicial executions involving members of the security forces, the armed forces, the National Intelligence Service and the Imbonerakure, the ruling party’s youth wing. It urged the State party to exercise strict control over the police and security forces to prevent extrajudicial executions, to investigate all alleged extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions, and to prosecute and punish those responsible.

The Committee expressed deep concern about the allegations of torture and ill-treatment by State officials, including police officers, National Intelligence Service agents and Imbonerakure members, committed chiefly on the premises of the National Intelligence Service near the Bujumbura cathedral, in police stations, prisons and other unofficial detention facilities. It urged Burundi to investigate all cases of alleged torture or ill-treatment by an independent body. It also asked the State party to ensure that suspected perpetrators, including those in positions of command, are duly brought before the courts and, if found guilty, appropriately punished according to the gravity of the offence.

Costa Rica
While noting the State party’s efforts to reform its criminal policy to reduce prison overcrowding, the Committee remained concerned about the ongoing high occupancy rates, unsuitable material conditions of detention in several establishments, and the insufficient specialised medical assistance. The Committee called on Costa Rica to continue its efforts to reduce prison overcrowding by alternatives to deprivation of liberty and to improve detention facilities to address any deficiencies related to general living conditions and health care in prisons.

The Committee was also concerned about the excessive use of pretrial detention by the judicial authorities and its near automatic application in drug trafficking offence cases. It urged Costa Rica to strictly adhere to the rules governing pretrial detention and to ensure that it is used only in exceptional circumstances and for limited periods, taking into account the principles of necessity and proportionality and the presumption of innocence.

The Committee was concerned that, despite its previous recommendations, there is still no provision in Danish domestic legislation criminalising torture as a separate offence. Nonetheless, the Committee welcomed the establishment of the “Committee for the Independent Criminalization of Torture, War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity and ratification of the amendment to the Rome statute on the crime of aggression”, which is mandated to introduce such provision. It called on Denmark to implement its previous recommendations on the matter.

Regarding the situation of migrants and individuals in immigration, the Committee expressed its concern that women in administrative detention are sometimes detained in poor conditions alongside men with violent criminal histories, and that individuals under the regime of “tolerated stay”, some for more than 15 years, are prohibited from working or freely choosing their residence. It recommended that Demark improve administrative detention conditions and separately detain people with criminal histories. It also recommended that Denmark review the regime of tolerated stay for people in protracted situations to ensure access to work, education, and residence of choice.

In view of the consistent allegations of the systematic use of torture and ill-treatment by police officers, prison guards and other security forces members, as well as the military in police stations, prisons, State security detention centres, military bases and unofficial detention facilities, mainly against political opponents and Government critics, the Committee remained deeply concerned at the lack of accountability, which contributes to a climate of impunity. The Committee urged Egypt to ensure that all complaints are investigated by an independent body, and that the suspected perpetrators and the superior officers ordering or tolerating such acts are duly tried and punished.

The Committee raised the alarm that the country’s counter-terrorism laws contain a definition of terrorism that is vague and overly broad and that they have reportedly been used to silence critics of the Government. It also expressed its concern about allegations that people accused of terrorism are often subjected to arbitrary arrest, unlawful detention, torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance, and that court proceedings in terrorism cases often lack fundamental procedural safeguards to ensure fair trials. The Committee called on Egypt to review the definition of terrorism in its counter-terrorism legislation to ensure that it aligns with the Convention and international standards. It also asked the State party to investigate all cases of torture, ill-treatment and other violations committed by public officials against individuals accused of involvement in terrorist acts, to prosecute and duly punish those responsible, and to provide redress to the victims.

The Committee was concerned that Kiribati has not yet defined the crime of torture and established punishments commensurate with the gravity of the offence in its criminal legislation. It urged the State party to incorporate a definition of the crime of torture that is consistent with the Convention, and to ensure that there are no mitigating circumstances or any other exception to the absolute prohibition against torture.

While noting Kiribati’s efforts to lower the prison occupancy level to under capacity limit, the Committee remained concerned about poor detention conditions, limited ventilation, and lack of adequate food. It asked Kiribati to guarantee that the basic needs of people deprived of liberty are met, including food, ventilation, hygiene, sanitation, and health care. It also called on the State party to provide a specific budget for prison reform, ensure sufficient medical personnel and medicines and provide more rehabilitation and social reintegration programmes.

While recognising Slovenia’s efforts to criminalise sexual and gender-based violence in its Criminal Code, the Committee was concerned about the persistent high level of domestic violence and the low prosecution and conviction rates. It asked Slovenia to redouble its efforts to ensure that all gender-based violence cases, including domestic violence, are thoroughly investigated, that alleged perpetrators are prosecuted and punished appropriately, and that the victims or their families obtain redress, including adequate compensation.

Regarding juvenile justice, the Committee raised concerns about reports suggesting insufficient rehabilitation programs for drug and alcohol addiction of children deprived of liberty, notably in the Radeče Reform School, and about the poor material conditions of detention. It asked Slovenia to strengthen existing rehabilitation programmes and develop new ones in this regard and ensure the maintenance of adequate detention conditions in juvenile reform schools.

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