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General News    H3'ed 6/28/09

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

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In a message marking the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on June 26, 2009, that governments around the globe should go on the offensive in the fight against torture. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressing that there can be no justification under any circumstances for such "cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment." He said that the International Day was an opportunity to express solidarity with victims and their families.

"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) ... Let us step up the fight against torture and cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment and punishment, wherever they occur," Mr. Ban said.

In a similar accord, Navi Pillay, the United Nation's High Commissioner for Human Rights, 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 what some view as support for the prosecution of former United States President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney, 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. "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.

The High Commissioner noted that the terrorist attacks of  September 11,  2001 resulted in some States backsliding on commitments not to practice 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."

"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 ... I call on leaders across the world to send a clear and unequivocal message that torture will no longer be tolerated," she said.

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Lawrence J. Gist II is a dedicated pro bono attorney and counselor at law, adjunct professor of legal studies at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles, CA, a member of the board of directors of the Institute of Indigenous Knowledges, and a veteran (more...)
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