COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE OFFERS CONCLUSIONS ON REPORT OF SPAIN
CAT 29th session 19 November 2002
Continues Review of Report of Venezuela
The Committee against Torture released conclusions and recommendations this afternoon on a fourth periodic report of Spain, applauding article 96 of the Spanish Constitution that incorporated the Convention against Torture into domestic legislation and made applicable directly in the courts, recommending that Spain take precautions concerning incommunicado detention, and remarking that it was aware of the difficulties Spain faced in combatting terrorism. The Committee said measures taken to fight terrorism should be in compliance with the provisions of the Convention against Torture.
Among other positive developments in the country, the Committee mentioned Spain's ratification in October 2000 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, and Spain's adoption of measures for the protection of detainees, such as the publication of a manual.
Among the Committee's recommendations were that Spain record interrogations of detainees and make these recordings available to judges; and that the Government make it possible for a detainee to be examined both by a State doctor and by a doctor his choice.
The Committee also carried on this afternoon with its review of a second periodic report of Venezuela, hearing responses by a Government delegation to questions put by Committee members upon presentation of the report Monday morning.
Responding to the Committee Experts' concerns about reported maltreatment and arbitrary detention of sexual minorities in the Province of Carabo, the delegation said Venezuela was aware of the situation, as the High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as various non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International, had reported the facts. Judges had ordered several investigations, but faced difficulties in interviewing the transsexuals concerned, as these people were afraid to discuss the events in question.
The Committee will offer its conclusions and recommendations on the report of Venezuela at 10:30 a.m. Friday, 22 November.
Spain and Venezuela, as among the 131 States parties to the Convention against Torture, must submit periodic reports to the Committee on national efforts to implement the Convention.
The Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 20 November, to issue conclusions and recommendations on a fourth periodic report of Egypt.
Conclusions and Recommendations on Fourth Periodic Report of Spain
The Committee cited among positive aspects of the report the fact that under article 96 of the Spanish Constitution the Convention against Torture was part of domestic legislation and could be invoked before Court.; that article 57 of the Penal Code established additional sanctions for torture; the ratification in October 2000 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court; the adoption of measures for the protection of detainees; new administrative and judicial guarantees for foreigners and asylum-seekers; training programmes for the State Security forces; the progress made in the prison system, with the construction of 13 detention centres; the reduction in the number of detainees in penal establishments while awaiting trial; and the regularity of Spain's contributions to the UN Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Torture.
The Committee was aware of the difficulties Spain faced in the field of violence and terrorism, and of the duty of the State to protect its citizens against such threat. The measures taken by Spain to fight terrorism must be in compliance with the provisions of the Convention against Torture.
Among matters of concern, the Committee noted the fact that Spain considered there were no cases of torture or only in isolated cases when NGOs alleged several cases of maltreatment; that Spain had become an important gateway to Europe and had to face an important number of immigrants and asylum seekers who could suffer discrimination; about complaints for ill-treatment and sexual abuse based on race; that people detained could be held in incommunicado detention for up to five days without any external contact or access to a lawyer or a doctor of their choice, as torture and ill treatment were easier to commit in such situations; about the excessive length of investigations into complaints of torture and ill-treatment; about cases of ill-treatment during the expulsion of unaccompanied minors; and about the detention conditions of prisoners who only left their cells for an hour or two, and enjoyed no social, professional or cultural activities that would permit their future integration, as provided in the Convention. The Committee recalled the State's obligation to impartially investigate all allegations of human rights violations, particularly in cases of torture.
Among the Committee's recommendations were that the State party consider the possibility of bringing article 174 of the Penal Code fully in line with article 1 of the Convention; that it take precautions concerning incommunicado detention such as recording the interrogation of detainees and make these recording available to judges before their presentation; and making it possible for a detainee to be examined both by a State doctor and by a doctor of the detainee's choice. The Committee urged Spain to take the appropriate measures to ensure that expulsion proceedings, particularly concerning unaccompanied minors, were in conformity with the Convention against Torture.
Discussion of second periodic report of Venezuela
A Venezuelan Government delegation, responding to questions put by Committee members following presentation of the Venezuelan report on Monday, said among other things that all persons entering the country had a right to ask for a refugee statute, and had the right to work and to move freely within the country. The rights of refugees were recognized by the Venezuelan legislation, and an asylum seeker could not be returned to a country where he may suffer a threat. Furthermore, when a large group of people was fleeing its own country and requiring protection, Venezuela accepted them in transit. The delegation aknowledged that it was necessary to set up a National Commission for Refugee that would coordinate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and assured that the Government was working in this direction.
The delegation said 33 prisons existed around the country, and regretted that as a result of the important number of prisoners, violence often occurred in prisons. It also acknowledged that social and medical care in prison was not sufficient. The Government was aware of the gravity of the situation and was trying to improve it. Enormous efforts were made through the various Ministries and foundations to help the State deal with the problem. New prisons were to be constructed but financial problems still occurred, added the delegation.
Training in the field of human rights was given to prison guards, directors and professionals in contact with detainees. Psychiatrics and doctors also brought their help to monitor the situation in prisons. Supervision on the situation was made by the State, and visits were made four times a month in prisons. NGOs and families also helped by denunciating problems faced by prisoners.
Until 18 November 2002, 21 141 persons were detained in Venezuelan prisons, 143 were indigenous and 1533 were foreigners, indicated the delegation.
Work camps could be attended by prisoners who had done a quarter of their sentence, said the delegation, and at two third of the sentence, they could be placed in the Open Regime. Alternatives to prison sentences were found in order to help them reintegrate society when they came out of prison.
Concerning the open regime system, the delegation explained 102 situations had been granted this year, and five demands had been rejected because the persons concerned did not comply with the conditions.
Responding to the Committee Experts's concern about the reported maltreatment and arbitrary detention of sexual minorities in the Province of Carabo, the delegation said Venezuela was aware of the situation as the High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as various Non Governmental Organizations, such as Amnesty International, had reported the facts. Judges, who faced difficulties in interviewing the transexuals concerned, as they were afraid to reveal the facts that occured, had ordered several investigations. Witnesses, families and friends had also been interrogated, but it was a longterm process. The delegation assured that the Government was doing its best to find the truth but it could not do much apart from collecting information.
The delegation quoted various other cases of ill treatment, death and dissapearences, which were actually being investigated. The State did not know yet the identity of the authors of these various offences and killings, but it will not rest until they were found, added the delegation.
The Ombudsman was the national authority competent to receive and investigate complaints of torture and degrading treatments. It had 26 head quarters around Venezuela in order to make sure that human rights were respected everywhere. The Ombudsman was the intermediate between the citizens and the State, said the delegation. In 2001, an amendment to the Penal Code offered the possibility for the Ombudsman to have access to the file of any public officer involved in a human right's violation.
A special Office had also been created within the Public Ministry of Internal Affairs, where all victims who suffered physical or psychological maltreatment could turn to and be given judicial protection. The will of Venezuela was to enhance awareness regarding human rights, said the delegation. Every complaint was processed and dealt with, and compensation was given to victims.
Various programmes aiming for the dissemination of information concerning the content of the International treaties ratified by Venezuela had been created. A campaign for peace had also been made in order to help to resolve conflicts through dialogue and reduce violence.
The delegation said that an obvious decrease concerning the number of deaths that occurred after torture, as well as concerning the number of victims who suffered degrading treatments by police officials could be noticed over the last few years. Nevertheless, a change of culture was necessary to eradicate impunity in Venezuela. Regarding statistical data, the delegation added that between March 2002 and 25 November 2002, nine deaths following riots in prisons had occurred, and 61 persons had been injured.
The delegation said the National Agency for the Defence of the Rights of Women existed since 1999, and aimed to protect the rights of women, particularly in the field of domestic violence. The case of detained women raped by two police officers had recently been followed by this agency.
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