Remarks by UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Pratibha Mehta at the Workshop on the Convention Against Torture (CAT)

06 Jun 2014

Event:      Workshop on the Convention Against Torture (CAT)
Venue:     InterContinental Hanoi Hotel, 1A Nghi Tam St., Ha Noi

Honorable Mr. Vu Hong Nam, chief of MOFA office;
Distinguished guests from the international community and from NGOs;
Colleagues and friends;
Ladies and gentlemen;

I wish to extend a warm welcome to all participants.

Let me especially welcome our guest, Professor Manfred Nowak, who has travelled all the way from San Francisco to join us for this event and who undoubtedly is one of the most prominent experts on the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Through his former engagement as a UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, he not only brings normative insight but also practical expertise on how to transform the words of the Convention into concrete policies and follow-up.

This workshop is also very timely as the world is marking the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture in twenty days time on June 26th.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights addresses the issue of torture upfront in Article 5 that states that: ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’.

Since the adoption of the Declaration in 1948, the international community has worked continuously on extending the legal and normative framework around the issue of torture. In 1975 the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was passed by the General Assembly. It was followed by the Convention against Torture in 1984 and by its Optional Protocol in 2002. Currently the Convention against Torture has 81 signatories and 155 state parties.

As parts of its Human Rights Council candidacy pledge, Viet Nam committed to the ratification of the Convention against Torture. It has subsequently signed the Convention in November 2013 and is now taking steps to ratify it.

Ratifying and implementing a human rights convention requires a well prepared and inclusive national effort that involves all relevant agencies working together across institutional boundaries and mandates.

Specifically, the Convention against Torture will require a strong interaction between different institutions, including the Police, other public security agencies, the Supreme People’s Procuracy, the Supreme People’s Courts, and central and provincial government authorities. It is therefore essential that all institutions involved are well coordinated, are aware of their responsibilities and have the necessary means and resources to monitor and implement the Convention against Torture, once ratified.

Viet Nam’s newly revised Constitution guarantees protection against torture in its article 20. The ongoing revision of the criminal procedure laws present a key opportunity to align Viet Nam’s legal framework to the principles enshrined in the Constitution as well as the international norms of the Convention, including the establishment of rules that forbid the use of evidence obtained by torture, and a mechanism to investigate, report and prosecute crimes involving torture.

Even though the ratification and implementation of human rights conventions is primarily the responsibility of the government, the contribution of non-state actors is crucial. As the experiences from other countries have shown, at the national level, civil society can play an important part in supporting discussions on how best to develop preventive mechanisms and how to build effective monitoring systems. Lawyers

Associations can support the development of relevant legislation; the media can raise national awareness on the Convention; and academic institutions can develop national expertise.

I am very happy to see that today’s event is attended also by civil society representatives. In order to provide as many organisations and officials as possible with access to information on the Convention, two more workshops with a focus on the Convention Against Torture will be organised in 2014, in Lam Dong and in Ho Chi Minh City.

The United Nations System as a whole looks forward to supporting Viet Nam in becoming the next country to ratify the Convention against Torture. Let me also take this opportunity to wish you a successful UPR review at the Human Rights Council on 20 June in Geneva.

I wish all participants good health, happiness, peace and a very successful workshop.

Thank you.