General Comment No. 4 (2017) on the implementation of article 3 of the Convention in the context of article 22 (9 February 2018)


UN’s Committee against Torture issues new guidelines on asylum seekers’ rights

GENEVA (26 February 2018) – New guidelines developed by the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) aim to help governments avoid violating international human rights law, and to help asylum seekers avoid torture or other ill-treatment.

The new document, known as a General Comment, addresses governments’ implementation of article 3 of the Convention against Torture. That article deals with non-refoulement, a ban on expelling, returning (“refouling”) or extraditing a person to another State where he or she could face torture.

Through writing the new General Comment no. 4 (2017) on how governments ought to live up to that obligation, the Committee against Torture gives guidance to States. The General Comment helps Governments assess whether an asylum seeker faces a personal risk of torture or ill-treatment in his or her country of origin, if returned there. It provides a check list of guarantees and risk factors for governments to pay attention to.

“The list could also help people at risk of being sent back, by assisting them in making their claims before the national authorities,” said Jens Modvig, Chair of the Committee.

The checklist, among other questions, asks government authorities to keep in mind that torture victims and other vulnerable persons frequently suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can result in a broad range of symptoms, including involuntary avoidance and dissociation. “These symptoms may affect the ability of the person to disclose all relevant details or to relay a consistent story throughout the proceedings,” the General Comment says.

The Committee against Torture developed the new checklist in response to the migration crisis and the consequential increase in complaints from people alleging they risked torture or other ill-treatment if forcibly removed from their countries of asylum to their countries of origin.

The full document is available to read here.


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The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (known as the United Nations Convention against Torture) is the most important international human rights treaty that deals with torture and other ill-treatment. The Convention requires countries that are parties to the treaty to prohibit and prevent torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in all circumstances.

The Convention entered into force on 26 June 1987 and currently has 162 States parties. Thus, the vast majority of the 193 UN member states have voluntarily agreed to prohibit and prevent any form of torture and other ill-treatment.

Members of the CAT are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. The Committee’s concluding observations and decisions on individual communications are an independent assessment of States’ compliance with their human rights obligations under the treaty. More information:

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