UN rights expert calls for increased measures to combat torture

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[JURIST] Chairperson of the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) [official website] Claudio Grossman [official profile] on Tuesday urged nations to “reconnect with the values” of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [texts and materials] and increase efforts to combat torture [press release]. Grossman stated that the need for heightened measures is particularly important in emergency situations where interrogators have little time to gain information from captives. He also emphasized the need for strict compliance with the committee’s observations and decisions, which include the adoption of preventative measures and the ability of torture victims to collect damages. Grossman claimed that countries have grown increasingly apathetic to the use of torture [JURIST news archive] as an interrogation technique:

This is the problem with torture: it can become natural. There are situations where everyone goes crazy and the normal values of human beings stand on their heads. It is very important to fight those situations. … We need to react very strongly against this attempt to get accustomed to torture. … This nonsense of ticking bombs, extraordinary situations as an excuse for torture. I’m surprised that people still talk about that. It happens less now than some years ago, and I think we need to build momentum against it. … We need to act so that we elevate education of people so that they go beyond the passive reactions when there are serious crimes committed.

In response to a question about countries like the US and China, which had ratified the Convention but were accused of torture, he stated that reports of torture have been found in all countries, but noted the difference between isolated incidents of torture and torture as a policy.

In June, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] warned people and nations [JURIST report] that practice torture that they cannot escape the reach of justice. Commemorating the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Pillay noted that 45 UN member states have not ratified the Convention and that many states party continue to practice torture. Pillay also expressed concern over democracies that generally abide by the rule of law but have maintained amnesties that prevent torturers from being brought to justice. Earlier that month, UN rights experts called on the UN Human Rights Council [official website] to investigate findings [JURIST report] from a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] released earlier this year detailing the secret imprisonment of terrorism [JURIST news archives] suspects by 66 countries, including the US, Ethiopia, Romania and Pakistan.

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