United Nations human rights committee finds that death row phenomenon in Philippines case amounts to torture

The United Nations Human Rights Committee considered the Petition of Albert Wilson (represented by REDRESS), a British national who was sentenced to death by a Philippines’ trial court after an unfair trial.

The Committee was of the view that the facts revealed violations by the Philippines of article 7 [torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment], 9 (1) – (3) [arbitrary arrest or detention], 10 (1) and (2) [respect for inherent dignity of prisoners] of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In particular, the Committee noted as follows:

–       Having observed that a civil action may not be advanced against the Philippines without its consent, and that there are, under domestic law, extensive limitations on the ability to obtain an award against an individual officer or agent of the State, the Committee considered that the Philippines had failed to demonstrate that domestic remedies are both available and effective;

–       The Petitioner argued that his mental suffering and anguish as a consequence of being sentenced to death following a trial replete with procedural deficiencies, combined with his treatment in, as well as the conditions of, his detention amounted to a violation of Article 7 (prohibition against torture). Here, the Committee observed that the author’s mental condition was exacerbated by his treatment in, as well as the conditions of, his detention and that these aggravating factors constituted further compelling circumstances beyond the mere length of time that the Petitioner spent on death row and consequently the author’s suffering under a sentence of death amounted to an additional violation of article 7 (prohibition against torture);

–       Acts of violence against the author that were committed either by the prison guards, upon their instigation or with their acquiescence, also gave rise to a violation of article 7;

The Committee observed that the Philippines is under an obligation to provide the author with an effective remedy. It noted that compensation should take due account both of the seriousness of the violations and the damage to the author caused and recalled the duty upon the Philippines to undertake a comprehensive and impartial investigation of the issues raised in the course of the author’s detention, and to draw the appropriate penal and disciplinary consequences.

Furthermore, the Committee took the view that the Philippines should refund the moneys claimed by the author in relation to immigration fees and affirmed that the Philippines is under an obligation to avoid similar violations in future. (emphasis added)