Overview of procedure
Like other international instruments relating to human rights, the Convention against Torture gives private individuals, in certain circumstances, the right to lodge with the Committee against Torture complaints regarding the violation of one or more of its provisions by a State party. For the Committee to admit and examine individual communications against a State party, however, its competence in that regard must have been expressly recognized by the State concerned.
Individual complaints are always examined by the Committee in closed session.
Submission of communications
A communication may be submitted by any private individual who claims to be the victim of a violation of the Convention by a State party that has recognized the competence of the Committee under article 22 and that is subject to its jurisdiction. If an alleged victim is not in a position to submit a communication, his or her relatives or representatives may act on his or her behalf.
Consideration of admissibility
In its consideration of the communication, the Committee's first concern is to ascertain its admissibility. If the conditions for admissibility are met, it proceeds to examine the merits. The Committee may be assisted in the exercise of its functions by a working group comprising not more than five of its members and expressly set up for the purpose.
The conditions of admissibility of communications are specified in the Convention and in the Committee's rules of procedure. For a communication to be declared admissible, it must not:
- Be anonymous or incompatible with the provisions of the Convention;
- Constitute an abuse of the right to submit a communication under article 22;
- Have been examined (or be under examination) under another procedure of international investigation or settlement.
Furthermore, all available domestic remedies must have been exhausted first (under the conditions specified for inter-State complaints).
The Committee may request the State party concerned or the author of the communication to submit additional information, clarifications or observations relevant to the question of admissibility.
If a communication is declared inadmissible, the Committee informs those concerned; however, the same issue may be reviewed at a later date if the Committee receives information to the effect that the reasons for inadmissibility no longer apply.
Consideration of the merits
If the Committee decides that a communication is admissible, it proceeds to consider the merits after informing the author of the communication and transmitting its decision to the State party concerned. Within six months, the State that has allegedly violated the Convention is required to submit to the Committee explanations or statements clarifying the case and indicating any measures that may have been taken to remedy the situation. The author of the communication may also submit observations or additional information to the Committee. In addition, the author or his or her representative may be present at the closed meetings of the Committee, if the latter deems it appropriate, in order to provide clarifications on the merits of the case. The representatives of the State concerned may also be invited to attend in the same way.
In the course of its consideration of either the admissibility or the merits of a communication, and before taking any decision, the Committee may request the State Party concerned to take steps to avoid possible irreparable damage to the alleged victim of the violation. This provision offers protection to persons alleging a violation of the Convention even before the Committee takes a decision on the admissibility or the merits of the case. Moreover, it does not prejudge the Committee's final decision.
Conclusion of the proceedings
In the light of all information made available to it by the individual and the State concerned, the Committee considers the communication and formulates its views thereon. Any member of the Committee may express an individual opinion. The consideration proceedings conclude with the transmission of the final views to the author of the communication and the State concerned, which is also invited by the Committee to inform it of the action it takes in conformity with the Committee's views.
The Committee includes in its annual report a summary of the communications examined, of the explanations and statements of the States parties concerned, and of its own views.