Committee against Torture welcomes new members

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

On 1 October, at the meeting of States parties, five members were elected to the UN Committee against Torture: Saadia Belmir (Morocco), Alessio Bruni (Italy), Jens Modvig (Denmark), Bhogendra Sharma (Nepal), and Kening Zhang (China). The APT wishes them all the best for their forthcoming term.

Ms. Belmir and Mr. Bruni are already experienced CAT experts, having already served on the Committee over the previous four years.

The new members will join experts from almost every geographic region in the world. With the election of two Asian candidates, from China and Nepal, the APT hopes that more Asia Pacific states will have faith that the UNCAT is a human rights instrument that has relevance for them and take steps towards adopting the treaty, joining the large community of States parties who have already made commitments to end torture for good.

One regret is that the recent election does nothing to redress the lack of female members. Women are traditionally underrepresented before every UN treaty body except the CEDAW. When the new members join the Committee next year, the CAT will have just two female experts out of ten.

Whatever the nationality or gender of members, the CAT will surely benefit from the new pool of talent which the elected members bring with them. Both Mr. Modvig and Mr. Sharma possess medical expertise and have worked to provide rehabilitation to victims of torture. Mr. Modvig also played an important role in the establishment of the Danish National Preventive Mechanism, has conducted over 35 visits to places of detention, and intends to promote greater collaboration between the CAT and the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, which undertakes visits to places of detention. Mr. Zhang has a solid academic and international legal expertise, and participated in the drafting of China’s CAT report before their last periodic review.

The APT has promoted key qualities for human rights treaty body members for several years. Prior to the CAT election, we published guidance on the election of CAT members for States parties.