APT welcomes new members of the SPT
Every two years, the composition of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) is renewed and elections are held to fill the vacant seats. With its 25 members, the SPT is the largest treaty body within the United Nations. In the latest elections, held on 25 October 2012, 19 experts from different regions and fields of expertise had been nominated for the 12 available seats.
After long campaigns for certain candidates, involving social media campaigns, direct meetings between States Parties’ representatives and candidates in Geneva, flyers and other promotional materials, the day of the elections finally arrived. Almost all States Parties (59 out of 63) were present to vote and, in spite of the high number of candidates, all seats were filled during the first round of election.
Elections represent a unique opportunity to strengthen the composition and expertise of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture. The APT looks forward to working closely with the newly elected members and congratulates all of them for joining this innovative and operational treaty body.
Half of the SPT seats were filled by new candidates, the rest were re-elected. All candidates from the so called Western Europe and Other Group were successful, including current Chairperson Malcolm Evans (UK), the candidates from Germany (Christian Pross) and New Zealand (Lowell Goddard), who were running for re-election, and a new candidate from Switzerland (Hans Jorg Bannwart). All candidates from the Latin America and Caribbean Group were also elected: new members from Argentina (Enrique Andrés Font) and Costa Rica (Victor Madrigal-Borloz) along with the re-elected Brazilian member Margarida Pressburger.
The representation of the Asia-Pacific group increased with the re-election of the Lebanese member Suzanne Jabbour and the addition of a new member, June Pagaduan Lopez, from the Philippines - one of the most recent State Parties to the OPCAT. The Philippines deference of its obligations to receive visits by the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture for the next three years clearly had no negative impact on the vote for their candidate.
Two of the three Eastern European candidates were elected – Viktor Zaharia from Moldova and Milos Jankovic from Serbia. Africa on the other hand did not get any wider representation within the SPT. While three other experts were standing for election, the only successful candidate was Paul Lam Shang Leen, Mauritius, who was running for re-election. The APT regrets such a situation, as Africa gathers 10 States Parties on the continent but is only represented by two members within the SPT.
For the first time a State Party presented two candidates (Kazakhstan) but neither of them was elected.
A few lessons can be drawn from these elections:
- All candidates running for re-election were successful. The APT had observed a similar situation during previous elections and it seems that this is now a trend within States Parties. While re-election can contribute to certain continuity within treaty bodies it can also impede the inclusion of new members from under-represented regions.
- The African group remains under-represented and greater efforts should be put into presenting independent and competent regional candidates for the SPT elections, including a concerted lobby campaign of other States Parties.
- The gender balance of the SPT did not change. There are eight women out 25 members (including the newly elected members). Only six of the 19 candidates were women so more attention needs to be given to ensure that more women candidates are presented next time and that gender balance is respected amongst SPT members. The Asia Pacific scores well in that sense with three women among the four regional members. On the contrary, there is only one woman among the seven members from the Western Europe and Other Group.
- The SPT could still do with more variety of expertise. Apart from five members with medical backgrounds and four judges the SPT experts are mainly lawyers.
Next SPT elections are due to take place in October 2014, when 13 seats will be available.