Posts Tagged Convention Against Torture
While working on the 26 June Global Report, in particular on the list of States which have and have not ratified the UN Convention against Torture, I noticed something peculiar.
From the short list of States which have not ratified the Convention — of which many are microstates — three of them are members of the Portuguese-speaking community of countries, namely Angola, Guinea-Bissau and São Tomé and Príncipe.
I am Portuguese and I am from a generation of young people who want to completely break away from the hostilities that marked this group of countries in the 60s and 70s.
This generation dreams of a true community of Lusophone countries that uses the shared heritage as a tool to advance human development and cultural enrichment.
Disregard for basic human rights does not and cannot be part of this new Lusophone community, the home of nearly 250 million people, where more than a million people already exchanged their country for another in the community.
That is why I decided to write an open letter to the leaders of the CPLP (in Portuguese only), the Lusophone equivalent to the Commonwealth or the Francophonie, calling for concerted efforts towards the ratification of the Convention by the three remaining countries, so that the whole community can adhere together to the cause for a world without torture.
Fabio is a Communications Officer and Assistant Editor of Torture Journal at IRCT.
Today Danish lawyer Christian Harlang filed a further two cases in which Danish troops are accused of complicity in torture during the ill-fated invasion and occupation of Iraq by western forces. The torture was documented by members of the IRCT’s Independent Forensic Expert Group.
While further details of the case – involving Iraqis who were tortured after being handed to Iraqi authorities by Danish troops – are in the news release from the IRCT, among its most disturbing aspects are the reasons for its delay.
Denmark has a huge responsibility as a result of these allegations. Indeed, as per its international legal obligations via instruments like the UN Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights, any allegations of torture must be taken very seriously and thoroughly investigated. Moreover, access to justice and reparation must be provided for the victims.
However, it seems that two arguments: that the case is too old, and, that the torture victims must pay costs of over €5,000 without access to legal aid, are acting as stumbling blocks.
Arguments are being made that such claims for damages cases must be brought within three years, as per Danish law. However, even within this Danish law there are exemptions to this rule that can be granted due to exceptional circumstances. And these surely are exceptional circumstances. Often it takes years for torture survivors to come to terms with what happened to them before they can begin to speak about it, let alone bring a court case over it. Moreover, it is not reasonable to expect people living in a strife-ridden country thousands of kilometres away to know the intricacies of the Danish legal system.
That such delays are happening in Denmark is particularly concerning. Denmark is generally known and respected for its efforts against torture globally. That torture has not only been linked to Danish troops, but that the Danish justice system appears to be throwing obstructions in the path of justice for these actions sends out a new and different message.
Scott McAusland is Head of Communications at the IRCT
Canada’s national police directives clearly violate international law, which dictates that countries must not use information or evidence obtained through torture
We have said it before; and we shall say it again.
Countries must not use evidence or information obtained through torture. In any circumstances. Doing so is a clear violation of international law, especially those countries who have signed onto the obligations within the UN Convention Against Torture. The Convention, which Canada ratified in 1985, states:
Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.
Yet, Canada’s Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has issued directives to both the Canadian Border Services Agency and the national police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), saying that they have the authority to use and share data and evidence that was likely obtained through torture.
Toews apparently has a short memory. Just six years ago, a federal commission recommended that Canada never share information with other countries if it is likely that it will cause or contribute to torture. This recommendation followed an investigation into the case of Canadian engineer Maher Arar, who was detained in the U.S. after RCMP provided faulty information to the US authorities. Arar was rendered to his native Syria, where he was tortured and detained for about a year.
Arar’s case was among those mentioned in the hefty criticisms leveled against the Canadian government during this year’s review by the UN Committee against Torture. The Committee condemned Canadian ‘complicity’ in torture.
Canada joins others such as Denmark in the shameful club of countries that justify their use of information obtained through torture by clinging to the long-dismissed arguments of ‘ticking-time bombs’ and public safety.
And using information obtained through torture simply allows it to continue unabated.