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UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

In December 2004, Manfred Nowak was appointed as Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by the UN Human Rights Commission. In the framework of this mandate, which he held until 2010, he assessed the situation of torture on behalf of the United Nations as an independent expert. The mandate includes all states of the world and thus exceeds the sphere of contracting States of the Convention against Torture. The expert function is independent and on a honorary basis.

Besides the official agency at the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Geneva which facilitated the Special Rapporteur in his function in representative, logistic and research matters, the Human Dignity team at the BIM in Vienna supported his exercise of the mandate.

Three kinds of activities are at the core of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Torture:

1. the transmission of so called "urgent appeals" and „letters of allegations“ in which the Special Rapporteur addresses States in relation to individual cases of torture and requests the prevention of imminent torture or serious investigation of a case, the prosection of the perpetrators and compensation of the victims;

2. frequent fact-finding missions;

3. drafting of reports on the results of his work and their presentation to the UN General Assembly in New York and the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Since the beginning of his mandate, the Special Rapporteur conducted more than 15 fact finding missions. The aim of these country visits is an independent on the spot review in relation to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment. On the basis of the acquired insights the Special Rapporteur issues receommendations which point out possibilites of improvement and try to support governments in their efforts of implementation.

In the framework of his mandate, the Special Rapporteur conducted 17 Fact-Finding Missions. The aim of these country visits was to receive an independent firsthand account of the situation concerning torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. On the basis of the gained expertise recommendations were formulated to identify opportunities to improve the current situation and to support the government in their respective efforts.

A requirement for these missions is the invitation of the Special Rapporteur by the government of the respective State as well as the comprehensive recognition of the „Terms of Reference“ of the Special Rapporteur. These terms include
a) unannounced and unrestricted access to all places of detention (e.g. prisons, police stations, psychiatric wards) and
b) the possibility to lead personal interviews with detainees without being observed or controlled.

An overview of fact finding missions so far as well as the according reports can be found here.

Stop of deportations to Greece

On 1 December the BIM together with the Association of Austrian Judges, the Austrian League of Human Rights and Amnesty International Austria asked Austrian politicans as well as the presidents of the High Courts to suspend further deportations of asylum-seekers to Greece in response to the request of the European Court of Human Rights and the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur o

AIDS 2010 - HIV/AIDS and Incarceration

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, said today at the occassion of his presentation at the AIDS 2010 conference, that there is an urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the criminal justice and prison system to ensure an adequate response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and detainees’ human rights. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in prisons and the measures authorities take to deal with it, impact – and often violate – detainees’ human rights.