The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in resolution 1985/33, decided to appoint an expert, a special rapporteur, to examine questions relevant to torture. The mandate has been extended regularly since then, most recently by Human Rights Council resolution 8/8 in June 2008 for 3 years. It covers all countries, irrespective of whether a State has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment or other international instruments.
The current mandate holder, Manfred Nowak, has been appointed in 2004.
The mandate comprises three main activities:
1) transmitting urgent appeals to States with regard to individuals reported to be at risk of torture, as well as communications on past alleged cases of torture;
2) undertaking fact-finding visits to countries upon invitation by the respective Government; such visits allow him to assess the situation of torture and ill-treatment, including conditions of detention, in a given country and make relevant and appropriate recommendations on a range of issues related to the mandate, including prevention and protection mechanisms, accountability, rehabilitation of victims, etc; and
3) submitting annual reports on activities, the mandate and relevant thematic issues to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.
Based on the above activities, the Special Rapporteur has accumulated extensive experience on a number of questions relevant to his mandate, such as on conditions of detention in many countries around the world, police accountability, as well as on best practices that may contribute to the prevention of torture. He also has undertaken research on specific groups of detainees, e.g. persons with disabilities and women.
Examples of some relevant thematic issues the current Special Rapporteur has addressed are:
- Avoiding the deprivation of liberty as a means of preventing torture (A/62/221)
- Mechanisms to visit places of detention (A/61/259)
- The role of forensic expertise in combating impunity for torture (A/61/259)
- Solitary confinement (A/63/175)
- Drug policies and human rights (A/HRC/10/44)
The country visits the current Special Rapporteur has undertaken are:
Equatorial Guinea (2008)
Sri Lanka (2007)