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Published:June 26th, 2009 14:22 EST

UN Demands That Countries End Torture

By SOP newswire3


26 June 2009 " Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon led United Nations officials in calling on governments to go on the offensive in the fight against torture, stressing there can be no justification under any circumstances for such cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment, in a message marking the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

I urge all United Nations Member States that have not yet done so to ratify and implement in good faith the Convention against Torture (CAT),  Mr. Ban said in the message.

He said that the International Day was an opportunity to express solidarity with victims and their families. Let us step up the fight against torture and cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment and punishment, wherever they occur. 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, maybe invoked as a justification of torture, citing the Convention.

In her message for the Day, she stressed that no one should be let off the hook for torture, including the policy-makers and public officials who define the policy and give the orders.

A total of 146 States have ratified the Convention since its adoption in 1984, or three-quarters of the world, noted Ms. Pillay, urging the remaining countries to sign up and current signatories to abide by its very clear rules.

Many States that have ratified CAT continue to practice torture, some of them on a daily basis, she said, adding that other States enable torture by sending back asylum-seekers to countries they know carry out torture, which is also clearly prohibited by the treaty.

The High Commissioner noted that the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 resulted in some States backsliding on commitments not to practise or condone torture, looking for ingenious ways to get around CAT, or stretch its boundaries.

The Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons, in particular, became high-profile symbols of this regression, she said. New terms such as water-boarding` and rendition` entered the public discourse, as human rights lawyers and advocates looked on in dismay. 

Welcoming United States President Barack Obama`s decisions to close Guantanamo and ban methods of interrogation that amount to torture and contravene international law, Ms. Pillay said that leadership plays a crucial role in upholding the total prohibition of torture.

As CAT makes clear, people who order or inflict torture can not be exonerated, and the roles of certain lawyers, as well as doctors who have attended torture sessions, should be scrutinized, she said, urging States to ensure acts of torture are criminalized under law and to help victims recover.

Ms. Pillay said that Guantanamo was reprehensible but it paled in comparison to the scale and nature of torture taking place in prisons, police stations and other government premises in countries all around the world.

There are thousands of such places and tens of thousands of victims, including child criminals and street children, she said, not just suspected terrorists and political activists. I call on leaders across the world to send a clear and unequivocal message that torture will no longer be tolerated. 

A number of independent UN experts called attention to persons with disabilities, who continue to run an increased risk of falling victim to abuse and neglect,  in a joint statement. Many are involuntarily confined for long periods, at times without legal basis and proper review mechanisms and in inadequate conditions. "

Persons with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to violence and abuse, including sexual abuse inside the home, at the hands of family members, caregivers, health professionals and members of the community, the group of experts wrote.

The statement came from the UN Committee against Torture; the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.