As of January 2012, the Committee against Torture has decided upon 243 individual communications. 10 of these were individual complaints regarding 4 different African states. Three exemplary decisions below illustrate how the mechanism of individual communications works in practice in the African context.
Saadia Ali is a French-Tunisian national, normally residing in France. During a trip to Tunisia in 2004, she accompanied her brother to the court of first instance in Tunis to retrieve a document he needed for his forthcoming wedding. At the court, she began arguing with the official because he refused to look for the document as the complainant and her brother could not provide a specific file number. The official ended up taking her to questioning. When she would not take back what she has said to the official before, she was taken to the basement where she was beaten and kicked by a guard until she lost consciousness. Her lawyer filed an official complaint to the office of the State prosecutor the next day. It was rejected with no reasons given. Saadia Ali then filed a complaint with the Committee against Torture.
In the opinion of the Committee, because the lawyer had not been able to register the initial complaint with Tunisian authorities, a further exhaustion of domestic remedies was not possible in this case. The complaint at UN level was therefore admissible. The Committee found that the acts of physical violence against the complainant constituted torture within the meaning of article 1 of the CAT. Furthermore, the Committee resolved that Tunisia in this case had violated the right of the complainant to prompt and impartial investigation (article 12), the right to complaint (article 13) and the right to redress (article 14).
In 2010, Yousri Ktiti submitted an individual complaint on behalf of his brother, Djamel Ktiti, a French national currently detained in a Moroccan civilian prison, awaiting extradition to Algeria. Djamel Ktiti was arrested in Morocco due to an international arrest warrant issued by the Algerian judiciary. The arrest warrant had been issued after a certain M.K., arrested on 7 August 2008 in Algeria for possession of cannabis resin, had mentioned the name Djamel Ktiti during interrogation. It was under torture, M.K.’s family says, that M.K. gave the police Mr. Ktiti’s name. On 7 October 2009, the Supreme Court of Morocco authorized Djamel Ktiti’s extradition to Algeria. An appeal by Ktiti’s lawyers was dismissed. Meanwhile, a court in Algeria sentenced Djamel Ktiti in absentia to life imprisonment.
Yousri Ktiti turned to the Committee on Torture. He claimed that his brother, if he was indeed extradited to Algeria, would be in danger of suffering the same, if not worse, torture as had been inflicted upon M.K. After considering statements from both the complainant and the Starty party in question, the Committee concluded that if Mr. Ktiti was extradited to Algeria, Morocco would be in violation of article 3 of the Convention (“No State Party shall expel, return or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”).
In 2001, a group of Chad nationals submitted a complaint against Senegal for providing a safe haven for former Chadian President Hissène Habré after his fall from power. All of the complainants claim to have been tortured under Habré regime.
When the complainants first turned to an examining magistrate in Senegal, Habré was charged and placed under house arrest. However, the Dakar Court of Appeal dismissed the charge, arguing that that the Senegalese Code of Criminal Procedure did not allow courts to bring a foreigner to trial for acts of torture committed outside of Senegalese territory. This was confirmed by the Senegalese Court of Cassation. It was not until Belgium issued an international arrest warrant and extradition request that Habré was once again arrested by Senegalese authorities. Instead of extraditing him to Belgium, however, Senegal decided Habré should be tried by a yet-to-be-established commission of the African Union.
The Committee against Torture assessed that by refusing to try Habré in a Senegalese court, Senegal had violated articles 5, paragraph 2, and 7 of the CAT. According to these articles, Senegal is obliged to either facilitate a trial by the competent Senegalese authorities or to comply with Belgium’s extradition request.
For a complete list of decisions of the Committee against Torture see:
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