States have the obligation to combat torture
The dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on torture at the Human Rights Council once again underlined that States have an obligation to combat torture and to take concrete acts to prevent ill-treatment and torture. , the Human Rights House Foundation expresses its concerns about torture in Armenia and Belarus.
Tuesday, 20 March 2012, by HRHF Geneva Office
On 5 March, the United Nations Human Rights Council discussed the reports of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment Juan Méndez. The meeting furthered the discussion on how to advance States’ obligation to prevent, investigate and prosecute torture and other forms of ill treatment, and to provide effective remedies to victims of past violations.
The Special Rapporteur expressed particular concerns about excessive use of force by law enforcement officials constituting torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. With regard to deaths in custody in a number of countries, he reiterated that there is a presumption of State responsibility when an individual dies in custody and that States must investigate the case thoroughly and that a State must ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.
Moreover, in relation to confessions obtained under torture and their admission as evidence against a criminal defendant, Juan Méndez emphasized the exclusionary rule and called on States to ensure, through proper procedural safeguards, that evidence obtained under torture is declared inadmissible.
Additionally, the Special Rapporteur stressed that States must be encouraged to take measures that fulfil their international obligations regarding truth, justice, reparation and guarantee of non-repetition of torture. He added that States should, however, seek international assistance where they lack necessary resources and/or expertise.
Excessive use of force during demonstrations
The Special Rapporteur also expressed worries about the excessive use of force during demonstrations, which on occasions amounts to torture.
In this regard, the Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF) is concerned by the upcoming parliamentary elections in Armenia in May. In 2008 massive police violence followed the presidential elections, resulting in the death of at least 10 people among which were peaceful protestors. The government is still to ensure that it has undertaken all necessary measures to prevent such violence recurring, including by punishing those responsible for that violence.
Armenia: torture at army
The extended practice of brutalization and cruel executions of soldiers in military camps in Armenia and the systematic concealment of evidences by military authorities in the Republic of Armenia are worrying. Tigram Hambardzumyan, 19 years old and Valery Muradyan, 18 years old, are just two names on a long list of dead soldiers. They officially committed suicide, although their bodies show evident signs of brutalisation and torture. Armenian NGOs are preparing a report to the UN Committee against Torture with HRHF, in which we will highlight the cases of deaths at the army.
Belarus: culture of impunity
HRHF is also concerned about the active culture of impunity in Belarus that surrounds acts of torture and ill treatment, and the widespread practice of underreporting. In this regard, Belarus’ lack of consideration for the communications sent by the Special Rapporteur on torture is a sign of the level of impunity for such acts within the state administration.
The UN Committee against Torture largely relayed these concerns at its review of Belarus in November 2011. In particular, the Committee’s Concluding observations highlight several cases of confessions obtained under torture and ill treatment. In some cases, judges relied on pre-trial statements of the defendants, which were conflicting with their testimony made during the trial, despite allegations of duress and intimidation.
In light of the above, HRHF is worried by the unanswered country visit request to the Republic of Belarus. The failure to respond to the Special Rapporteur’s requests is a concern relayed by the Austrian delegation during the interactive dialogue. We thus join the call of the Special Rapporteur on torture and urge all states, including Belarus, to answer positively and without further delay to their pending country visit requests; especially since many of these States, such as Belarus in its 2010 Universal Periodic Review, committed to increasing cooperation with special procedures by extending invitations to all special rapporteurs.
All States have the legal obligation to prevent torture, and to impartially and promptly investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators.
Interactive dialogue with the special rapporteurs on torture and human rights defenders, on 5 March 2012, at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva:
HRHF Geneva Office
Report of the Special Rapporteur:
Communications with States:
The Special Rapporteur sent numerous communications to many states (see his report on all communications in 2011):
- The Special Rapporteur had 4 communication on Belarus in 2011, including one on the executions of prisoners.
- The Rapporteur also had 6 communications on the situation in the Russian Federation, including attacks against human rights defenders and excessive use of force by police officers.