TORTURE, INSTRUMENT OF TERROR, CAN NEVER BE USED TO FIGHT TERROR
SAYS IN MESSAGE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS DAY
He Calls Practice Unacceptable, Illegal, Even under Another
8 December 2005 – Asserting that torture can never be an instrument to fight terror because it is
an instrument of terror, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his annual Human Rights Day message decries the recent
trend of countries claiming exceptions to the international prohibition against the practice.
Mr. Annan calls for
all States to honour the legally established ban on torture and to vigorously combat the impunity of those who perpetrate
it. He also urges all countries that have not yet done so to ratify the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The message also urges all States to allow the UN expert on torture “independent
access to detainees within their control.”
Last month, five independent United Nations human rights experts,
including the Special Rapporteur on torture, rejected a United States invitation to visit its detention base in Guantanamo,
Cuba, because Washington did not accept standard terms for a “credible, objective and fair assessment,” including
their ability to conduct private interviews with detainees.
The Secretary-General, in his message on Human Rights Day,
observed annually on 10 December, says unlimited access is an essential protection for individuals in detention because their
isolation makes them especially vulnerable to abuse. “Together, we must give voice, and redress, to abused detainees
as well as to all victims and survivors of torture,” he says.
Acknowledging that the threat of terror is “real
and immediate,” he nevertheless points out that fear of terrorists can never justify adopting their methods. “Let
us be clear: torture can never be an instrument to fight terror, for torture is an instrument of terror,” he declares.
this argument, the Secretary-General warns against complacency about cruel and inhuman punishment, which tends to disproportionately
affect imprisoned, politically powerless and economically deprived people. “Instead, we must respond to this evil wherever
we find it by reaffirming humanity’s most basic values,” Mr. Annan says.
Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message on Human Rights Day, to be observed
on 10 December:
Fifty-seven years after the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights prohibited all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, torture remains unacceptably
common. Recent times have witnessed an especially disturbing trend of countries claiming exceptions to the prohibition on
torture based on their own national security perceptions.
Let us be clear: torture can never be
an instrument to fight terror, for torture is an instrument of terror.
The prohibition on torture is well established
under international law. It is also unambiguous and absolute. It is binding on all States in all territories under their jurisdiction
or effective control. It applies in all circumstances, in times of war as in times of peace. Nor is torture permissible when
it is called something else: cruel and inhuman treatment is unacceptable and illegal, irrespective of the name we give it.
States must honour this prohibition and vigorously combat the impunity of perpetrators of torture. Those who conceive
of or authorize any form of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and those who commit such acts, should
not go unpunished. Nor may any State condone torture by a third party. This means that individuals must never be rendered
to another State if there is any danger that doing so may subject them to torture.
The international community must
speak forcefully, and with one voice, against torture in all its forms. Today, I call on all States who have not done so to
ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as well as the Optional
Protocol to the Torture Convention. And I urge all States to allow the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture
independent access to detainees within their control. Unimpeded access is an essential protection for these individuals, whose
isolation makes them especially vulnerable to abuse. Together, we must give voice, and redress, to abused detainees, as well
as to all victims and survivors of torture.
Humanity faces grave challenges today. The threat of terror is real and
immediate. Yet fear of terrorists can never justify adopting their methods. Nor can we be complacent about the broader prevalence
of cruel and inhuman punishment, which in so many of our societies disproportionately affects the most vulnerable people:
the imprisoned, the politically powerless and the economically deprived. Instead, we must respond to this evil wherever we
find it by reaffirming humanity’s most basic values.
Today, on Human Rights Day, let us recommit ourselves to
the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and let us rededicate ourselves to wiping the scourge of torture
from the face of the earth