The right of torture victims to obtain reparation is well recognized in international law. It has been enshrined in numerous international human rights treaties, including the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention against Torture. Reparation includes restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.
Reparation has been described as having 'the purpose of relieving the suffering and of affording justice to victims by removing or redressing to the extent possible the consequences of the wrongful acts.'
At present, there are no coherent or universal principles regarding the nature or scope of this right. However, draft UN Guidelines and Principles on the right to reparation exist, the most recent version of which was submitted to the Commission on Human Rights in January 2000. The Guidelines contain many important elements not present or not fully elaborated upon in existing international standards, including the definition of a 'victim', the right to reparation and forms of reparation, the scope of states' obligations and the operation of statutes of limitations with respect to claims by victims.
The starting point of the draft Guidelines is the needs and wishes of the victim. In the words of the Preamble, 'in adopting a victim-orientated point of departure, the community, at local, national and international levels, affirms its human solidarity and compassion with victims of violations as well as with humanity at large.'
On 30 September-1 October 2002, the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights will host a consultative meeting for all interested governments and non-governmental organizations, with a view to finalizing the Guidelines and submitting them to the General Assembly for adoption.
The IRCT has closely followed the development of the Guidelines over the past ten years. Together with seven other NGOs, the IRCT is calling for the early adoption of the Guidelines, which will provide much needed international clarity on the rights of victims and of the obligations of States to ensure respect for and enforce those rights.