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Third Committee Meeting

Today, we hear of numerous cases of torture and other inhumane acts arising around the world. It has been reported by the Palestinian Prisoners Club that sixty percent of Palestinian children who are arrested by Israeli occupation are verbally, physically or psychologically tortured. Other parts of the world see migrants and refugees tortured in detainment and left to suffer away in detention centres where they are subjected to all kinds of abuse. These alarming facts lead me to the Third Committee meeting at the United Nations Headquarters, where member states come together to discuss agenda items relating to a range of social, humanitarian affairs and human rights issues that affect people all over the world.

Statements were heard from the Chair of the Committee against Torture, the Chair of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, followed by responses to  questions from member states. The overall sentiment of the meeting focused on what preventative measures, policies and actions are being taken to addressed the existence of torture globally. The conversation surrounding torture exists within the backdrop of human rights. Torture is the ultimate violation of a person’s inherent dignity. While unprecedented action has been taken to eradicate torture, it still continues to be practised with impunity throughout the world as we can see in light of recent events. The statements made by the Chairmen and Rapporteur highlighted the responsibility shared by all to uphold the promise of human dignity to all through addressing and abolishing this dehumanising act.

The importance of prevention mechanisms was brought to the attention of member states, with a need to implement the strategies proposed by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture as a vital catalyst of change. The Chair of SPT emphasised that more focus needs to be given to practical implementations of recommendations made across the United Nations system, with particular attention targeted to prevention policy so there is less opportunity for torture and other inhumane acts to take place. In his report, the Rapporteur emphasised the need for states to ratify legislation that meets international laws against torture. Through this, he reminded member states that they have a duty to establish national prevention mechanisms and protocols across all dimensions of society. The most important recommendation he made was that states need to develop safe, sustainable pathways for regular migration so that they are protected from being treated inhumanely, forced into illegal routes and consequently fall prey to criminal networks. In light of the current migrant and refugee crisis, it was stressed that prolonged detainment of migrants should not occur as these conditions are vulnerable to torture treatment environments. Human dignity of the migrant is essential. It was clear in their responses that overall there was a huge support for the fight against torture and an agreed notion that it is an impermissible act.

Author: Greta Hunt, Youth Representative