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The UN Committee against Torture

January 2011

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The human rights treaty bodies

The ten international human rights treaties monitored by the human rights treaty bodies create legal obligations for States to promote and protect human rights. When a State accepts a human rights treaty through ratification or accession, it becomes a State party to that treaty and assumes the legal obligation to implement the rights set out in it.

The treaties provide for the creation of international committees of independent experts (human rights treaty bodies) to monitor the implementation of their provisions in those countries that have ratified or acceded to them. The United Nations treaty body system plays a pivotal role in strengthening the protection of human rights nationally.

The primary mandate, common to all human rights treaty bodies, is to monitor the implementation of the relevant treaty by reviewing the reports submitted periodically by States parties.

There is ten human rights treaty bodies:

- The Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and its Optional Protocols;
- The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966);
- The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which monitors the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965);
- The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979);
- The Committee against Torture, which monitors the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984);
- The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, created by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (2002);
- The Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and its Optional Protocols;
- The Committee on Migrant Workers, which monitors the implementation of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990); and
- The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006);
- The Committee on enforced disappearances, which monitors the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (2006).

The Committee Against Torture

The Committee Against Torture (CAT) is the body of 10 independent experts that monitors implementation by State parties of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

All States parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented. States must report initially one year after acceding to the Convention and then every four years. The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of “concluding observations”.

In addition to the reporting procedure, the Committee may also, under certain circumstances, consider individual complaints or communications from individuals claiming that their rights under the Convention have been violated, undertake inquiries, and consider inter-state complaints.

- For more informations on individual complaints

The Optional Protocol to the Convention, which entered into force in June 2006, creates the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT). The SPT has a mandate to visit places where persons are deprived of their liberty in the States parties. Under the Optional Protocol, States parties shall establish a independent national preventive mechanisms for the prevention of torture at the domestic level which has also a mandate to inspect places of detention.

- FIACAT and the Committee Against Torture

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