Marking the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other United Nations officials today roundly denounced the practice and called on all countries to ratify the international treaty that bans it.
To commemorate the Day, “let us speak with one voice against the perpetrators of torture, and for all who suffer at their hands,” Mr. Ban said in a message. “And let us build a better, more humane world for all people everywhere.”
Twenty years ago today, the Convention against Torture went into force, “yet even after two decades, this instrument falls well short of universal ratification,” he observed, urging all countries who have yet to do so to join both the treaty and its Optional Protocol.
The pact currently has 174 States parties. Comoros, the Dominican Republic, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, India, Nauru, Sao Tome and Principe and Sudan have all signed but not ratified the pact.
Other countries that are not party to the Convention include Angola, Bahamas, Barbados, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, the Central African Republic, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Fiji, Grenada, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Kiribati, Laos, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, the United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, Vanuatu, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.
Mr. Ban also lauded the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which he characterized as “another milestone in the struggle to eliminate torture.”
Signing on to this new treaty – which opened for signature this past year – “will prove an unequivocal expression of the international community’s determination to address not only torture but also its most egregious enabling conditions,” the Secretary-General noted.
He voiced his solidarity with those who have suffered as a result of torture, thanking the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture for its efforts.
Echoing Mr. Ban’s call for universal ratification of the Convention against Torture, other UN experts, led by High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, issued a joint statement condemning the use of torture.
On this Day, “we pay tribute to all Governments, civil society organizations and individuals engaged in activities aimed at preventing torture, punishing it and ensuring that all victims obtain redress and have an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for full rehabilitation as possible,” the group said.
They also expressed their appreciation for the work of the UN Voluntary Fund for Torture Victims, appealing to all States, “in particular those which have been found to be responsible for widespread or systematic practices of torture,” to contribute.
Citing the “strong links” between torture and enforced disappearances, the statement also extolled the new International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforce Disappearances which “brings hope to many who have despaired of the fate of their loved ones.”
The group voiced “grave” concern that some States have ignored the UN Committee against Torture’s requests to hold off on departing or removing individuals to countries where they could potentially be tortured.
They also voiced concern regarding the use of the death penalty, as those on death row and those who have been executed – as well as their families – are themselves torture victims, under certain circumstances, the statement said.
“Irrespective of whether the death penalty is considered lawful or not under international law, many issues regarding its application may be contrary to international norms against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” the group said, calling on States to halt the use of the death penalty.
In addition to Ms. Arbour, the statement was endorsed by 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 and the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund.