Dr. Alice Jill Edwards (Australia) is the seventh – and first woman – UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. Her appointment was announced on 8 July 2022 and her tenure begins on 1 August. A highly skilled lawyer, scholar and negotiator, Dr. Edwards has an established record of sustained engagement on behalf of victims of human rights violations and of critical contributions to the development of standards in international law.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in resolution 1985/33, decided to appoint an expert for one year, a special rapporteur, to examine questions relevant to torture. Since 1985, the mandate has been renewed regularly and extended to 3 years, most recently by Human Rights Council resolution 43/20 in March 2020.
The mandate covers all countries, irrespective of whether a State has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The mandate comprises three main activities:
- transmitting urgent appeals to States with regard to individuals reported to be at risk of torture, as well as communications on past alleged cases of torture;
- undertaking fact-finding country visits; and
- submitting annual reports on activities, the mandate and methods of work to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.
Unlike the complaints mechanisms of the human rights treaty monitoring bodies, the Special Rapporteur does not require the exhaustion of domestic remedies to act. When the facts in question come within the scope of more than one mandate established by the Commission, the Special Rapporteur may decide to approach other thematic mechanisms and country rapporteurs with a view to sending joint communications or seeking joint missions.