Saturday, December 10, 2005

Human Rights Day

Today, December 10th, is Human Rights Day. This year's theme is "torture and global efforts to combat it" - a theme taken up forcefully by UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan in his Human Rights Day Message:

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...

And if individual states don't do it, the international community must step in and do it for them.