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UN Secretary General insists torture persists despite prohibition

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UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has said despite the prohibition of torture under international law, it still persists in all regions of the world.

A statement issued by the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Saturday to mark this year’s United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, quoted Guterres as saying: “Torture seeks to annihilate the victim’s personality and denies the inherent dignity of the human being.

“Despite the absolute prohibition of torture under international law, torture persist in all regions of the world. Concerns about protecting national security and borders are increasingly used to allow torture and other forms of cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment.”

The UN Secretary General added that: “Its pervasive consequences often go beyond the isolated act on an individual; and can be transmitted through generations and lead to cycles of violence.”

According to the statement: “The Secretary General’s last point is profoundly important. Human rights abuse is a major driver of conflict in general, and terrorism in particular. Misguided notions that the use of torture can somehow deter criminals or defeat terrorism simply set up future outbreaks of violence. This is not simply a case of two wrongs not making a right, but rather of two wrongs will inevitably result in future wrongs.”

The statement added that torture is now considered a crime under international law, and It is absolutely prohibited and cannot be justified under any circumstances. Moreover, the systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity that can be prosecuted in every jurisdiction on earth – regardless where the crime itself occurred.

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However, it is not enough to simply outlaw the use of such methods, although this is profoundly important, it is also necessary to promote more successful, and less harmful methods for collecting information in pursuit of legitimate law enforcement and security investigations.

The statement said to this end, the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has worked for the past four years with the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), the Anti-Torture Initiative (ATI), and the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (NCHR), as well as with Professor Juan Méndez, a former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and himself a victim of torture during Argentina’s Dirty War, and Solomon Arase, a former Nigerian Inspector General of Police, to develop international Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering, now also known as the ‘Méndez Principles.’

Within the context of its EU-funded Partnership Project to Support Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism and Violent Extremism, UNODC has been supporting Nigeria to build the capacity to conduct investigations that do not rely exclusively on confessional statements from suspects, to strengthen the forensic capacities of Nigerian law enforcement, and to prevent the use of torture and other coercion in the interviewing of terrorism suspects.

The statement revealed that UNODC is currently developing a training course based on the Méndez Principles, and Nigeria has agreed to be the first country in which this course will be piloted. UNODC will be working with Nigerian experts to produce a customized training tool on investigative interviewing and the prevention of torture in terrorism cases, that can be used to train investigators, prosecutors, judges, and lawyers.

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