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OMCT: Urgent need to prevent transfers to torture

Sydney World Refugee Day march - Photograph: Peter Boyle

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The OMCT has called for the development of clear and comprehensive guidelines on how to enforce the prohibition of refoulement and how to put in place effective remedies against it.

GENEVA, 7 August 2015: With migration pressures increasing around the world, new conflicts emerging and an aggressive counter-terrorism debate portraying foreigners and migrants as unwanted or security threats, the OMCT warns of an increasing risk that States are sending people back to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

In a thematic briefing to the UN Committee against Torture on 6 August 2015, the UN main anti-torture body, the OMCT presented its concerns regarding the lack of implementation and protections against transfers to torture as a growing and under-reported global problem.

“States who send persons back to real risks of torture are complicit for such violations under article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It is alarming to see that protections against such transfers are lacking or not applied in many regions of the world. There is a need to think collectively on how to reinforce an effective protection strategy to prevent transfers to torture in reality,” said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.

The briefing set out the legal framework on the principle under comparative human rights law, the implementation of fundamental preventive safeguards and the reinforcement of effective national and international remedies against return.

Another key topic has been the numerous legal policy challenges posed by counter-terrorism laws and practices post 9-11. States have sought to limit or circumvent this fundamental principle and transferred persons to countries with a real risk of torture.

READ MORE:  Stop targeting refugees, migrants and their defenders

The OMCT called for the development of a clear, comprehensive and systematic set of guidelines on how to enforce the prohibition of refoulement and how to put in place effective remedies against it – including repatriation. Indeed the Committee against Torture has reaffirmed on numerous occasions the absolute nature of the principle. States should apply no exception based on national security concerns and counter-terrorism policies.

The briefing to the UN Committee Against Torture included Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General, and OMCT legal experts, Helena Solà Martín and Nicole Buerli, and other international experts including Dr Fabián Salvioli, the chairperson of the UN Human Rights Committee; Dr Mark Villiger, the judge of the European Court of Human Rights; and leading civil society experts Carla Festmann, director of Redress, and Ian Seiderman, head of legal policy, at the International Commission of Jurists.

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