prohibition of torture ‘absolute’, binding on all states, in all circumstances,
says Secretary-General in message on international day
Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, observed 26 June:
The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is an occasion for the world to reaffirm that torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. It is a day to renew our commitment to denounce such acts and seek justice for torture victims. Above all, it is a day for governments to ask themselves whether they are doing enough to prevent acts of torture, assist their victims, punish the perpetrators and ensure that they are not repeated.
Sadly, experience shows us that torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment remain all too common in too many countries. Yet the prohibition of such acts is not ambiguous: it is 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. Euphemisms cannot be used to bypass legal obligations.
States must honour their obligations, including that to 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. Independent bodies must prosecute those responsible, and the punishment must reflect the seriousness of the offence.
The obligations of international customary law have been voluntarily accepted by the many States that have ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Today, I call on all States to ratify these two core human rights treaties, as well as the Optional Protocol to the Torture Convention. And I call on them to issue an open invitation to the Special Rapporteur on torture, as well as to other relevant human rights mechanisms, to visit their country.
On this day, I also pay tribute to all those who work throughout the world to relieve the suffering of torture survivors and their families. The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture assists many non-governmental organizations to provide victims with medical and psychological care, legal and social aid, and financial support. I express my gratitude to those governments and other contributors who make that assistance possible, and I call on all members of the international community to support the Fund.
The United Nations was founded to reaffirm faith in the dignity and worth of the human person; to create better standards of life in larger freedom. We cannot get anywhere near fulfilling that pledge unless we wipe the scourge of torture from the face of the earth. On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, let us rededicate ourselves to that mission.
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* Press Release SG/SM/9368-OBV/4270-REF/1178 of 16 June should have been SG/SM/9368-OBV/427-REF/1178.