"We have not yet achieved a world free from torture, but we believe that this goal is achievable, that rights and duties need to be taken seriously, and that supervisory organs with independent experts are an essential component to achieving that goal," Claudio Grossman, head of a 10-member U.N. Committee against Torture, told the General Assembly while presenting the group's annual report.
The committee, made up of independent experts, seeks to eradicate inhuman practices and monitors measures taken by states that are party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which came into force 25 years ago.
The convention provides that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." It also requires states to refrain from deporting or returning people to countries where they could face torture, and to extradite or prosecute perpetrators of torture.
Of the 193 U.N. member states, the committee said 153 have so far ratified the convention or acceded to it, adding the other 29 have never submitted a report to the committee as required.
Separately, Juan Mendez, special rapporteur on torture, told the General Assembly the death penalty is increasingly being viewed by international bodies and several states as a form of torture.
"States need to re-examine their procedures under international law because the ability of States to impose and carry out the death penalty is diminishing as these practices are increasingly viewed to constitute torture," he said.