Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Canada's Louise Arbour: "No Exceptions to the Ban on Torture"

I love this woman :) From 1999-2004, Louise Arbour served as a Justice on The Supreme Court of Canada. Since then, she has served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Here are some excerpts from Arbour's Tuesday op-ed in the Int. Herald Trib., "No Exceptions to the Ban on Torture:" {emphasis mine}
The absolute ban on torture, a cornerstone of the international human rights edifice, is under attack. The principle we once believed to be unassailable - the inherent right to physical integrity and dignity of the person - is becoming a casualty of the so-called war on terror.
[...] imminent or clear dangers at times permit limitations on certain rights. The right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is not one of these. This right may not be subject to any limitation, anywhere, under any condition. [...] Particularly insidious are moves to water down or question the absolute ban on torture, as well as on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Governments in several countries are claiming that established rules do not apply anymore: that we live in a changed world. They argue that this justifies a lowering of the bar as to what constitutes permissible treatment of detainees. An illegal interrogation technique, however, remains illegal whatever new description a government might wish to give it.
[...] The trend of seeking "diplomatic assurances" allegedly to overcome the risk of torture is very troubling. The international legal ban on torture prohibits transferring persons - no matter what their crime or suspected activity - to a place where they would be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment (the non-refoulement obligation).
Faced with the option of deporting terrorism suspects and others to countries where the risk of torture is well documented, some governments, in particular in Europe and in North America, purport to overcome that risk by seeking diplomatic assurances that torture and cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment will not be inflicted. There are many reasons to be skeptical about the value of those assurances. If there is no risk of torture in a particular case, they are unnecessary and redundant. If there is a risk, how effective are these assurances likely to be?
But the problem runs deeper. The fact that some governments conclude legally nonbinding agreements with other governments on a matter that is at the core of several legally binding UN instruments threatens to empty international human rights law of its content. Diplomatic assurances create a two-class system among detainees, attempting to provide for a special bilateral protection regime for a selected few and ignoring the systematic torture of other detainees, even though all are entitled to the equal protection of existing UN instruments.
Let me turn to my second concern. An unknown number of "war on terror" detainees are alleged to be held in secret custody in unknown locations. Holding people in secret detention, with the detainee's fate or whereabouts, or the very fact of their detention, undisclosed, amounts to "disappearance," which in and of itself has been found to amount to torture or ill-treatment of the disappeared person or of the families and communities deprived of any information about the missing person. Furthermore, prolonged incommunicado detention or detention in secret places facilitates the perpetration of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. [...] Recourse to torture and degrading treatment exposes those who commit it to civil and criminal responsibility and, arguably, renders them vulnerable to retaliation.
Bravo, Madame Arbour :) To learn more about Louise Arbour and her work, please check-out this 2004 interview with Carole MacNeil (CBC Sunday). There is also a bio-pic movie, expected to air on CTV in 2006. "Hunt For Justice: The Louise Arbour Story" will recount Arbour's involvement in attempting to bring Bosnian war criminals to justice (starring Wendy Crewson, William Hurt and the guy from the Big Fat Greek Wedding movie).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read what Rush says, and I agree....Last week I told you about Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who accused America of undermining a worldwide torture ban, and of weakening human rights around the world. She blamed America for eroding “the inherent right to physical integrity and dignity,” which she claimed is a casualty of the “so-called” war on terror. Arbour also criticized America for holding prisoners in secret detention centers, which she labeled “a form of torture.” But she praised “past U.S. leadership.” Translation: the Clinton Administration.

Well, America’s UN ambassador, John Bolton, responded. He called it “illegitimate for an international civil servant to second-guess the conduct that we’re engaged in the war on terror, with nothing more as evidence than what she reads in the newspapers.” Well, this infuriated UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. AP reports that “in a rare rebuke of a UN ambassador,” Annan announced plans to call Ambassador Bolton to the woodshed. Annan’s spokesman made it clear that Kofi supports the asinine comments of his High Commissioner.

As I said last week, we might not be in Iraq now — if the UN had done its job, instead of looting Iraq with Kofi’s corrupt Oil-for-Food program. Or if the Clinton Administration had defended America from terrorists just once instead of defending their boss from his intern’s stained dress.

Mr. Anan, I offer you the same diplomacy I offered your High Commissioner. From the people of America, to both of you: place your terrorist-appeasing lips on the collective American posterior and kiss it. Twice.

12/13/2005 12:30 PM  

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