Vienna/Geneva, 24 November 2004 - On 23 November, the Austrian human rights expert Professor Dr. Manfred Nowak was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by the Chairman of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. On 1 December Nowak will thus succeed the Dutchman Theo van Boven, who has held this mandate for the last three years. Prof. Nowak's candidacy was officially supported by Austria. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is one of the Human Rights Commission's most important mandates, as well as one of the most difficult. Created in 1985, it covers all countries, irrespective of whether they have ratified the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The most essential tasks of the Special Rapporteur are transmitting urgent appeals to states with regard to individuals reported to be at risk of torture, undertaking fact-finding country visits and submitting annual reports to the Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly of the United Nations. Special Rapporteurs are independent, unpaid, and are appointed in a personal capacity for a maximum of six years.
Prof. Dr. Manfred Nowak is the Director of Scientific Research at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights in Vienna, the Austrian representative in the EU Network of Independent Experts in Fundamental Rights, and chairman of a visiting commission to the Human Rights Advisory Council of the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior. An internationally recognized human rights expert, Professor Nowak, is also inter alia a UN expert on missing persons and adviser to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on poverty reduction strategies. Since the early 1980s he has devoted himself intensively to issues related to the combating and prevention of torture and is currently working on a commentary on the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment.
Thanks to her active engagement in this field, Austria has acquired a high profile in the UN Commission on Human Rights. Internationally respected Austrian experts like Professor Nowak and Austrian think tanks have made an essential contribution to this excellent reputation.