United Nations (UN) Committee against Torture publishes findings on Australia, Chad, El Salvador, Malawi, Nicaragua, Somalia and Uganda

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Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
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The UN Committee against Torture (CAT) on Friday issued its findings on Australia, Chad, El Salvador, Malawi, Somalia and Uganda after reviewing the States parties in the latest session, as well as the final version of the concluding observations on Nicaragua provisionally adopted during its previous 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:

Australia
The Committee was concerned that detention continues to be mandatory under the Migration Act 1958 for all unauthorized arrivals, including children, and that the law does not provide a maximum period of detention. It requested that Australia repeal the legal provisions establishing the mandatory and indefinite detention of persons entering the country irregularly, and ensure that detention is only applied as a last resort and for the shortest possible period of time, and guarantee that children and families with children are not detained solely because of their immigration status.

The Committee expressed serious concern about the minimum age of criminal responsibility being set at ten and about children in detention being frequently subjected to verbal abuse, racist remarks and solitary confinement. It recommended that Australia raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility according to international standards, prohibit the use of physical restraints to discipline children under supervision, and immediately end the practice of solitary confinement for children across all jurisdictions.

Chad
The Committee was disturbed by the alleged use of lethal weapons by the security forces during presidential elections and the establishment of the Transitional Military Council in April 2021, resulting in deaths and injuries, arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detention, as well as torture and ill-treatment. It urged Chad to ensure prompt and effective investigations into all these allegations, that perpetrators are punished, and that victims receive full reparation.

The prevalence of prison violence, including violent acts committed by prison staff against detainees, alarmed the Committee. It raised questions about numerous deaths in custody under suspicious circumstances, including 44 alleged members of the Islamist sect Boko Haram who died in a cell of a gendarmerie post in N'Djamena as a result of alleged torture. It requested that the State party undertake prompt and effective investigations into all deaths in custody and all allegations relating to acts of torture and ill-treatment by prison personnel.

El Salvador
Since the state of emergency was declared in El Salvador on 27 March this year, 57,000 people have been detained. In this regard, the Committee asked the State party to adopt effective measures to prevent arbitrary arrests without a warrant and ensure all fundamental safeguards from the outset for detainees and that its emergency legislation complies with international human rights law.

Concerning the delays in adopting a comprehensive legislation relating to transitional justice, the Committee asked El Salvador to enact such legislation in line with international standards, ensuring that it excludes amnesties, immunity for alleged perpetrators and statutes of limitation for serious human rights violations.

Malawi
With regard to the severe prison overcrowding, reportedly exceeding 200% of the actual capacity, and poor material conditions, the Committee called upon Malawi to guarantee that detention conditions fully comply with UN standards and to take all necessary legislative and other measures to reduce overcrowding in prisons, especially by making more use of alternatives to detention.

The Committee reproached Malawi for its failure to prohibit the admissibility of confessions obtained under torture and ill-treatment in its Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code. It urged Malawi to amend the relevant legislation and ensure that such confessions are systematically declared null and void. It also asked the State party to develop training modules for law enforcement officers on non-coercive interviewing and investigation techniques.

Nicaragua
The Committee regretted that Nicaragua ignored its obligation under the Convention and refused to cooperate in the review. The Committee proceeded with the examination of Nicaragua in the absence of a State delegation in July and adopted its final findings in November.

It was particularly concerned about numerous reports indicating the National Police, the Directorate of Special Operations and agents in civilian clothes used lethal force, arbitrary detentions and acts of torture to repress protestors participating in demonstrations since April 2018. The Committee urged Nicaragua to guarantee legal safeguards to all detainees, adopt necessary measures to prevent and cease these acts of repression and violence, particularly against human rights defenders, journalists and political opposition leaders, and immediately release those arbitrarily detained.

Somalia
The Committee regretted reports about torture and ill-treatment, including gender-based violence, committed by the National Intelligence and Security Agency, Somali National Army and other state and non-state actors. It also noted that the public executions practised in Somalia raise serious issues under the Convention against torture.

It asked Somalia to establish a definition of torture that confirms fully with the Convention, to expeditiously establish a national human rights institution and ensure that all alleged torture and ill-treatment are promptly and impartially investigated.

Uganda
Concerning reports about excessive use of force and other acts of violence by security agencies in the context of COVID-19 emergency measures, the Committee urged Uganda to have all such complaints of torture promptly and impartially investigated by an independent body.

The Committee remained concerned about reports indicating that “safe houses” or “ungazetted” places of detention have been set up in Uganda. It recalled that the State party should abolish the use of “ungazetted” or unauthorized places of detention or “safe houses”, and immediately provide information about all places of detention.

The above findings, officially named Concluding Observations, are now available on the session page.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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