Important Concluding Observations of the Committee against Torture following the Canada reporting session in regards to gender/sex-based torture by non-state actors in the so-called domestic or private sphere that can be important to others dealing with violence against women/girls.
A colleague, Linda MacDonald and I were present at the Committee against Torture session in Geneva to present the position of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) shadow report entitled A Shadow Report: Canada Fails to Establish Non-State Actor Torture as a Specific and Distinct Criminal Human Rights Violation. It was based on the the Committee against Torture General Comment No. 2 Implementation of article 2 by StatesParties, in particular paragraph 18, which is a fundamental for addressing gender/sex-based torture by non-state actors in the so-called domestic or private sphere (http://www2.ohchr.org/
The Committee against Torture acknowledged that there are acts of violence that occur in the so-called private or domestic sphere perpetrated by non-state actors that amounts to torture and must be dealt with under the Convention against Torture. I share below two paragraphs from the UN News & Media, May 22 Canada-Committee session based on the comments of the Committee experts and that of Chairperson Mr. Grossman(http://www.unog.ch/
Issues of assault towards children and violence against women were raised by an Expert, who said torture by non-State actors was an issue that sometimes seemed not to be taken as seriously as it should be. Such acts included severe violence against women and children, such as female genital mutilation, burning, cutting, imprisonment by families, whipping and severe sexual and psychological violence. Those acts may be performed in a non-State situation, but investigation, protection, prevention and redress were very important. In gravity those crimes shared aspects of the definition of torture, as well as its discriminatory effect, the Expert said, and torture by non-State actors should be taken up, in particular in terms of awareness-raising. Torture was not something that happened only to one gender: it happened to women and children as well.
CLAUDIO GROSSMAN, Committee Chairperson, noted the delegation’s invitation for the Committee not to consider acts of domestic violence, but said unfortunately that was an invitation the Committee could not affect due to its obligations to the Convention; discriminatory treatment for women or men that could constitute torture was clearly listed in article 16. It was true, there were committees on the rights of child, prevention of discrimination against women and racial discrimination, and so on, but if the Committee was to do that it would end up only considering acts of torture that were committed against white males.
Concluding Observations of the Committee against Torture made to Canada June 1, 2012 (http://www2.ohchr.org/
- That there is an obligation to implement the Convention against Torture in full at the domestic level (para. 4).
- That all provisions of the Convention need to be incorporation in the domestic legal order or domestic law, for example, the Committee is of the view that the incorporation of the Convention into Canadian law would not only be of a symbolic nature but that it would strengthen the protection of persons allowing them to invoke the provisions of the Convention directly before the courts. The Committee recommends that the State party incorporate all the provisions of the Convention into Canadian law in order to allow persons to invoke it directly in courts, to give prominence to the Convention as well as to raise awareness of its provisions among members of the judiciary and the public at large. (art. 2, Para. 8).
- In particular reference to violence against women where Canada was of the opinion that violence against women did not belong under the Convention the Committee stated it regretted the statement by the Canadian delegation that the issues on violence against women fall more squarely within other bodies’ mandate, the Committee recalled that the State bears responsibility and its officials should be considered as authors, complicit or otherwise responsible under the Convention for consenting to or acquiescing in acts of torture or ill-treatment committed by non-State officials or private actors. (arts. 2…). The Committee states that the State party should strengthen its efforts to exercise due diligence to intervene to stop, sanction acts of torture or ill-treatment committed by non-State officials or private actors, and provide remedies to victims (para. 20).
- In reference to data collection the Committee stated it regretted the absence of comprehensive and disaggregated data on complaints, investigations, prosecutions and convictions of cases of torture and ill treatment … [involving] domestic and sexual violence. The State party should compile statistical data relevant to the monitoring of the implementation of the Convention obligations at the national level, including data on complaints, investigations, prosecutions and convictions of cases of torture and ill-treatment, … [involving] domestic and sexual violence as well as on means of redress, including compensation and rehabilitation, provided to the victims (para. 23).
After almost 20 years of grass root work Linda and I being listeners to the atrocities of torture perpetrated in the domestic sphere, spoken of mainly by women these Concluding Observations are a big breakthrough in moving forward towards gaining legal empowerment for women or any citizen so harmed by having non-state torture recognized under the Convention against Torture. The Concluding Observations supports other human rights instruments with articles stating that no one shall be subjected to torture, such as the UDHR, article 5, CEDAW, General Recommendation 19, 7 (b), the ICCPR, article 7,and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, article 3(h).