Independent experts wanted! Election to the UN Committee against Torture

Monday, September 21, 2015

On 8 October, the 158 States who are party to the UN Convention against Torture will meet in Geneva to elect new members to the UN Committee against Torture, which will act as steward and guardian over the Convention for the next four years.

Members of the Committee give huge amounts of their time to the UN without any reward. The work is unpaid, and with three committee sessions each year, members need to be in Geneva for up to 11 weeks a year and be available for preparative work and related duties in their country of origin too.

In return, they get to play a critical role to the prevention of torture and to the protection of the universal standards of the Convention. The Committee’s work should stand as a leading example to all those defending the rights of persons deprived of liberty around the world.

The importance of this election should therefore not be underestimated.

New website with candidate information

For the first time, a number of organisations, including the APT, have come together to invite candidates to explain their skills and experience in more detail. We asked candidates to highlight relevant experience and describe how their skills matched those needed for the CAT. We also asked what candidates see as the main challenges for States seeking to implement Convention obligations, and how the work of the Committee can better help States in this ambition.

Candidates’ replies to these questions give a much better idea of how each expert would work to support States and other actors respect, protect, and fulfil the Convention against Torture.

We have made this information available to everyone, publishing it on a dedicated website. The replies from candidates complement the limited biographical information published on the website of the Committee.

Importance of diversity

In the past, UN elections have been rather nepotistic affairs, with States trading promises to gain advantage and secure votes for their candidates, rather than assessing candidates according to merit. This NGO initiative is an attempt to ensure that candidates to the Committee are assessed against each other in a transparent way, according to skill and experience. We hope that this will strengthen the quality of the Committee membership, and improve its ability to act in defence of the universal prohibition against torture.

Members to the Committee against Torture are drawn from all regions of the world, representing all legal systems, as well as a variety of cultural, religious, and linguistic traditions. Such diversity of membership certainly helps to reinforce the universal nature of norms guaranteed in the Convention. The APT continues to encourage States to give due consideration to diversity and gender balance in choosing candidates for Committee membership too.

So good luck to the candidates, and a big thank you to the members of the Committee who are leaving at the end of the year, each after many years of dedicated service – Mr. Domah, Mr. Gaye, Mr. Grossman, and Mr. Tugushi.

Your service has greatly supported the global protection of persons deprived of liberty and you should be justifiably proud of this contribution. Good luck in your next endeavours!

Photo: US Mission/Eric Bridiers