REDRESS welcomes key document from UN body urging states to ensure torture victims full remedy and reparation
States have been told they must take significant and positive steps to ensure that victims of torture and ill-treatment obtain redress for the harm they have suffered. The Committee Against Torture, the UN body tasked with interpretation of the Convention against Torture, today issued a key document explaining States’ obligations under its Article 14, the central article of the Convention concerning victims’ rights to compensation, rehabilitation and other forms of reparation.
The document – only the third General Comment issued by the Committee since 1988 – clarifies the positive steps that states are obligated to take to ensure that victims of torture or ill-treatment obtain redress for the harm they have suffered.
“This is very important for victims of torture all over the world”, said Dadimos Haile, Interim Director of REDRESS. “As REDRESS knows well, through the struggles of the torture survivors it assists, the right to redress is all too often violated by states. The Committee against Torture has today set out a blueprint for States to improve their record in this crucial area.”
The new General Comment elaborates on the scope and content of the right to reparation, including compensation and rehabilitation, and clarifies the measures that states must adopt to ensure that victims are able to access their right to redress.
“The Committee rightly stresses that States have to take action to make torture victims’ rights effective,” said Haile. “Even if victims’ rights to remedy and reparation are recognised in law, there are often many practical barriers – including lack of resources, lack of information, fear of reprisals, corruption and long delays – which mean that they cannot achieve such rights in reality.”
The adoption of the General Comment has taken over three years, with input sought from both States and non-governmental organisations dealing with victims of torture. Drawing on its long experience of working with victims of torture to achieve justice, REDRESS provided detailed comments to the Committee’s first draft in September 2011, and worked together with other organisations to ensure other input to the drafting process.
The General Comment also emphasises that the obligation to provide redress to victims of torture and ill-treatment is not limited to the States responsible for the torture. The Committee has thus recognised the rights of all victims to obtain redress, even if they are prevented from seeking reparation from the state responsible for torturing them, for example, due to doctrinal barriers such as state immunity or because they have fled the country to seek asylum in a third state.
This is an important acknowledgement. “States have obligations to ensure that victims of torture achieve redress, and the Committee rightly praises those states that have allowed victims to sue for torture or ill-treatment committed outside their own borders,” added Haile.
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REDRESS takes legal challenges on behalf of survivors, works to ensure that torturers are punished and that survivors and their families obtain remedies for their suffering. REDRESS has intervened in a range of leading torture cases in the UK and abroad.
Article 14 of the Convention against Torture provides that every State Party must ensure that:
“the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible”.