The Committee against Torture has adopted on 19 November 2012 its General Comment no. 3 on the application of Article 14 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Article 14 of the CAT provides victims the rights to redress and to compensation: it is the first time a United Nations Human Rights treaty body issues an authoritative interpretative of an issue which remains largely indefinite in international law. General Comment no. 3 is of significant importance since it provides a source of reference for victims seeking redress. Indeed, general comments have been integrated to the work of regional human rights institutions and international criminal tribunals, and they have had a real influence in domestic courts.
In General Comment no. 3, victims are given a broad definition: victims are all individuals “who individually or collectively suffered harm […] through acts or omissions that constitute violations of the Convention,” as well as immediate family and dependants of the victims. In addition, the Committee has considered that the right to redress does not apply only to victims who were harmed in the territory of the State party or by or against nationals of the State party. Rather, the Committee has commended State parties to ensure the right to redress of all victims, regardless of where the acts of torture or of ill-treatment were committed, is effective. This means that persons who suffered harm in a State which is not a party to the CAT can benefit from their right to redress when entering the territory of a State party.
The Committee recalls that the obligations of State parties to provide redress are both procedural and substantive. State parties are expected to enact legislation and establish complaint mechanisms to answer victims’ requests and to ensure that victims obtain full and effective redress and compensation. Regarding substantive obligations, the Committee adopts the approach stated in the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law which state that redress includes five forms of reparation: restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.
Read a detailed analysis by Christen Broecker, Associate Director of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, on IntLawGrrls.