Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
April 1, 2014 – The Special Rapporteur on Torture has issued a statement in support of the NGO Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility’s (ADPSR) call for an end to designs that facilitate torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In his statement, the Special Rapporteur endorses ADPSR’s petition to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to amend its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to prohibit the design of spaces intended for prolonged solitary confinement, explaining that such a prohibition would be “a welcome step in advancing respect for human rights within civil society.” The Special Rapporteur explained that the design of prison environments can in general help meet human rights standards but that in some extreme cases, design may actually facilitate abuse. He elaborated that architects participate in shaping the experience of people in detention, and can therefore play a meaningful role in resolving the human rights problems caused by the practice of solitary confinement by prohibiting the design of spaces that leading to such cruel, inhuman, or degrading conditions. The Special Rapporteur’s full statement is available here, and a link to the ADPSR’s ethics petition is available here and via www.change.org.
March 20, 2014 – The annual report containing the Special Rapporteur’s observations on communications with governments is now available. The report features the Special Rapporteur’s final observations on urgent appeals and allegation letters that he sent to Governments between December 1, 2012 and November 30, 2013. The Special Rapporteur’s observations refer to and comment on replies sent by States in response to his communications before January 31, 2014. Communications sent and responses received during the reporting period are accessible electronically through hyperlinks. The annual observations report is considered an important advocacy tool for civil society, victims, and other stakeholders, and the views expressed by the Special Rapporteur on the observations can be for advocacy purposes. The full report can be accessed here.
March 20, 2014 – The UN General Assembly Resolution adopted a new resolution on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment on December 18, 2013 in New York. The Resolution recognized the Special Rapporteur’s reports and follow-up efforts, encouraging him to continue to include proposals on the prevention and investigation of torture and other ill-treatment in his recommendations, as well as to report on follow-up by States to his recommendations, visits, and other communications. The Resolution also calls upon all States to cooperate with and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of his tasks. The Resolution highlighted in particular the need for States to to supply all necessary information requested by the Special Rapporteur; to fully and expeditiously respond to and follow up on his urgent appeals; to give serious consideration to responding favourably to requests to visit their countries; and to enter into a constructive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on requested visits as well as with respect to the follow-up to his recommendations. The full text of the Resolution is available here.
March 18, 2014 – The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other independent human rights experts expressed their dismay over the death of Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli in hospital on March 14, 2014, and extended their sincere condolences to her family and friends. The experts noted that Ms. Cao was the subject of a public statement issued by them in October 2013, which was made pursuant to reports that Ms. Cao was detained because of her activities linked to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of China, that her health gravely deteriorated in detention, and that authorities denied her the right to medical attention. Additionally, a formal response from the Chinese authorities indicating that she had no serious health problems and had access to medical care was questioned by the experts. The experts now urge the Chinese authorities to investigate the circumstances leading to Ms. Cao’s death promptly, explaining that her death is a “tragic example of the results of criminalization of the activities of human rights defenders in China and reprisals against them” and stating that “it is unacceptable that civil society activists pay the ultimate price for peaceful and legitimate interaction with the United Nations and its human rights mechanisms.” To read the full press release, please visit the OHCHR website.