United Nations independent expert today underlined that Commissions of inquiry into torture are effective tools to fight impunity.
However, UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Mendez pointed out that commision of inquiry alone cannot replace a country’s legal obligations to prosecute human rights violations.
“A commission of inquiry by itself is never sufficient to fully satisfy a State’s obligations under international law.” – Mr. Mendez
Unlike criminal investigations and prosecutions, commissions of inquiry provide an opportunity for a deeper understanding of the underlying context in which violations were committed and allow for the review of government policies, practices and institutional shortcomings, and contribute to the healing of victim communities, providing recommendations on reparation and guarantees of non-repetition, according to Mr. Mendez.
Mr. Mendez explains that commissions of inquiry are strong and flexible mechanisms that can yield ample benefits for governments, victim communities and the wider public.
However, the commissions of inquiry do not relieve States of their legal obligations to investigate and prosecute torture.
He underlines that commissions of inquiry can also facilitate the formal investigation of current systems of torture and will pave the way to fair prosecutions.
“Where possible, the possibility of national commissions of inquiry ought to be pursued before the establishment of an international commission.” -Mr. Mendez
Mr. Mendez’s report aims to generate further discussion of the standards that apply to the establishment and conduct of commissions of inquiry.
The report will be also discussed in Geneva at a side event on “Accountability for human rights violations by States in the context of national security and countering terrorism.
Torture is widely used by the police to extract confessions during criminal investigation. Torture is also used as a tool to extract bribes. Most of the victims of torture are from poor and marginalized communities. Among them, many are juveniles arrested by police officers concerning petty crimes, who are tortured severely, sometimes to death, while in custody.