Overview

The United Nations (UN) forms the bedrock of the international human rights law system. There are a number of important features of the UN system which are integral to the effective implementation of human rights in all member states. The UN human rights treaties are a central component: The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is one of nine core human rights treaties. As is the case with all core human rights instruments, this treaty has established a committee of experts to monitor implementation of the treaty provisions by its States parties. The Committee against Torture (CAT) is the UN body that is tasked with monitoring compliance with the Torture Convention. The CAT publishes interpretations of the content of human rights provisions on certain thematic issues. These interpretations are issued in the form of general comments. The CAT also makes country specific recommendations in the form of concluding observations issued following the consideration of the State parties reports submitted in accordance with Article 19 of the Convention against Torture. The Section on CAT Recommendations: Country Specific provides links to the periodic reports and concluding observations for the Latin American countries under review in this project.

The Convention against Torture is further supplemented by an optional protocol which deals with specific concerns. The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), reflects a push for greater coordination among human rights bodies and agencies operating at all levels, from the international to regional and domestic. The section on OPCAT includes an overview of OPCAT and the Paris Principles and National Preventive Mechanisms. A further important body is the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT), which is one of the UN mechanisms directed to the prevention of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

In addition to the treaty-based system, the UN operates a number of special procedures; mechanisms established by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is charged with examining questions relevant to torture. The current Special Rapporteur on torture is Prof. Juan Méndez

The section on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) provides important information on a unique mechanism of the UN which entails a review of the human rights records of all 192 Member States of the UN once every four years. The process, which is designed to improve the human rights situation on the ground of each of the Member States, operates under the auspices of the Human Rights Council. It is a State-driven process, which provides the State with the opportunity to affirm the positive actions taken to improve the human rights situations in their counties, in fulfilment of their human rights obligations. Country specific recommendations are issued to State parties through the UPR process. Relevant documents from the UPR First-Cycle, including country reports, summary of stakeholders’ information and the outcome of the review are provided in the section on Latin America: UPR First-Cycle Country Recommendations.

Information on new modalities and the official calendar for the UPR 2nd cycle are also provided in the section on preparation for the 2nd cycle.