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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Statement on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture – 26 June 2019

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) and its Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa (the CPTA) would like to commemorate this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture by drawing attention to the situation of African migrants and refugees at risk of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, in line with the African Union (AU) theme for 2019 - the year of Refugees, Returnees, and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to forced Displacement in Africa.

On this important day which marks the entry into force of the United Nations Convention against Tortureand Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), this group of vulnerable persons who are systematically exposed to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (other ill-treatment) require our collective attention.

While the vast majority of migrants generally take part in regular migration for reasons of work, education or family, the fewer group of migrants who migrate irregularly undertake dangerous journeys, where their safety and well-being is not protected. In fact, they are routinely deprived of their inherent right to dignity, and their basic human rights to non-discrimination and freedom from torture and other ill-treatment.

Their situation is precipitated by discriminatory policies, laws, or practices which deny migrants’ proper identification documents, permit their arbitrary detention or deportation, and violate the principle of non-refoulment. More generally, the domestic legal and administrative frameworks and procedures on migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers are not human-rights centric, and fail to comply with regional and international human rights standards.

Further, where migrants are subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, all too often, they are not able to access redress to facilitate their recovery from the physical and psychological trauma they suffered. Redress includes restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction - including the right to the truth, and guarantees of non-repetition.Redress seeks to restore the dignity, humanity and trust violated by torture and other ill-treatment.

Victims of torture, particularly migrant victims of torture, may be unable to obtain redress due to the lack of comprehensive anti-torture legislation, the existence of laws which permit torture and other ill-treatment, inadequate torture prevention safeguards or the lack of implementation of legislation where it exists, the absence of effective policies or programmes designed to give effect to this right, and the failure of the relevant mechanism to properly identify victims.

Beyond addressing some of the above-identified policy and legal short-comings which put migrants at heightened risk of torture and other ill-treatment, States should ensure that the necessary framework also exists to ensure that migrant victims of torture and other ill-treatment are able to access redress. States should therefore put in place safeguards to reduce the vulnerability of irregular migrants, and also ensure they have access to justice and redress where their rights are violated.

The CPTA has seized itself of this important matter since October 2018, when it organized a Panel Discussion on the Situation of Migrants at Risk of Torture and other Ill-treatment, and published a Thematic Report on Migrants and Refugees at Risk of Torture and other Ill-treatment, during the 63rd Ordinary Session of the Commission, held from 24 October to 13 November 2018. In April 2019, it published an article on the issue, in its 8th Edition CPTA Newsletter. Further, on 15 July 2019, the CPTA will organize a Roundtable Discussion with Key Stakeholders: Providing Redress to Gambian Returnees –Victims of Torture and other Ill-treatment.