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Torture not to fight terror, instrument of terror

Torture not an instrument to fight terror, but an instrument of terror – Annan

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.

Broadening 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.

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