In light of the recent debate on torture in Guantanamo Bay and before that in the infamous Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq as well as the ongoing practices in Israeli jails; there seem to be deliberate silence from some UN top officials on these and similar practices. Although it has been more than 25 years since the UN Convention Against Torture, this inhumane practice is still being used in many countries today. What a shameful moral failure in the face of humanity.
The UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Article 1 states: “For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”
According to Amnesty International “Torture cannot be defined by a list of prohibited practices. Human rights treaties define torture in a number of different ways, reflecting the different contexts in which they were drafted and the purposes of the particular treaty. The UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment covers abuses carried out by agents of the state, or with their consent or acquiescence. It refers to ”any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person”, for a purpose such as obtaining information or a confession, punishment, intimidation or coercion, ”or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind”. It is impossible to draw a clear dividing line between ”torture” and other ”cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (ill-treatment). Whether an act of ill-treatment constitutes torture depends on a number of factors including the nature and severity of the abuse. Both torture and ill-treatment are prohibited in all circumstances by international law.” View Link…
What is Torture? A primer on American Interrogation is a comprehensive up-to-date resource on torture including a section on taxonomy of torture listing water boarding among 17 methods of torture.
Torturing Democracy is an award winning powerful documentary on torture including a film in 3 sequential parts. This is a must see.
The UN established a voluntary fund for victims of torture “The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture was established by General Assembly resolution 36/151 of 16 December 1981 to receive voluntary contributions from Governments, non-governmental organizations and individuals for distribution to non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian assistance to victims of torture and members of their family. The type of humanitarian assistance provided by organizations which receive grants from the Fund consists mainly of psychological, medical, social, legal and economic assistance.” View Link…
Also, there has been four successive UN Rapporteurs on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment since 1985, all four UN Rapporteurs are distinguished Western European gentlemen. View Link…
The assistance to the victims of torture and the establishment of a special post for rapporteur on torture are well intentioned needed initiatives and the efforts of these rapporteurs and their staff should be recognized. However, the practice of torture appears to have increased in the last 8 years. Which raises serious questions and concerns:
- What is the UN doing to pro-actively stop current torture and prevent any future torture?
- What are the conditions and the practices in the secret jails around the world that are now coming to light?
- In August 2003, the UN headquarters in Baghdad was blown up. Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, UN Special Representative in Iraq, and 22 other UN staff were killed in that heinous explosion. Mr. Sergio de Mello had requested to visit and monitor Abu Ghraib jail.
Update, Friday, June 26, 2009:
June 26 is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
M. Alaadin A. Morsy
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