A world of torture

Krass, Alfred

Human rights A WORLD OF TORTURE U.N. CENSURES VIOLATIONS As 1984 came to its conclusion an event took place, little noticed by the press, which may go down in history in red letters. The United...

...Alphons Hamer of the Netherlands Mission, the convention's chief sponsor, told us that the convention's provisions reach to "the limits presently possible for an agreement among the governments in the international community.'' The U.S...
...To make the convention effective, however, requires more than the statements of international bureaucrats...
...ALFRED KRASS (Alfred Krass, a United Church of Christ minister, is Chairperson of American Christians for the Abolition of Torture, a national, ecumenical, human rights organization based in Philadelphia...
...it requires political will...
...Any participant state in whose territory a person alleged to have committed torture is found shall be required to: take the accused into custody...
...It will, in addition, make inquiries into reports by individuals, organizations, or states party to the convention that torture is being practiced in any participating nation...
...The committee will receive regular reports, from nations which are party to the convention, of steps they have taken to comply with its requirements...
...has adopted the convention, and once it is ratified, prohibition of torture will be firmly established as the law of nations...
...What occurred because Pena-Irala and Filartiga visited the U.S...
...Though the sponsors acceptance of the amendment reduces the convention's power, it by no means invalidates it, for three reasons: (1) all states which ratify will still be required to take internal measures to outlaw and eliminate torture, (2) states which refuse to recognize the authority of the committee will have to make a public statement of their refusal a step with bad public relations overtones, and (3) such states forfeit the right to make complaints against other states...
...Its work is a credit to the Human Rights Commission...
...The next move is to insist that governments ratify the convention without delay...
...Filartiga's successful case against his son's murderers may be the first of many future prosecutions...
...The Western nations, and a number of third world countries, led by Argentina, were pushing strongly for the convention's adoption...
...an enemy of all mankind...
...In addition to actions required of individual member states, an overall watchdog body, the Committee against Torture, consisting of ten experts in human rights serving in their personal capacity, will have an important role...
...The United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus the "Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment...
...The convention, the product of seven years' labor by the U.N.'s Commission on Human Rights, was appropriately adopted on December 10, International Human Rights Day...
...Individuals and organizations anxious to see the convention begin the work it was designed for including Amnesty International, a key actor now have the ball in their court...
...The court judged that Dr...
...No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public Commonweal: 260 emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture...
...In the view of the court, torture is a violation of international treaties and declaretions which are "an expression of the evolving law of nations...
...That the convention was adopted by consensus is largely due to successful negotiations over an amendment submitted by the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic...
...When it reaches such consensus it has authority to publish its findings...
...Eastern bloc nations appeared to be holding back...
...should ratify it, declaring formally that it recognizes the competence of the Committee against Torture with regard to itself...
...State Department is not alone in describing the convention as "an outstanding achievement...
...For example, Paraguayan courts had acquitted Pena-Irala, but remedies against torture will no longer be limited to jurisdictions in which victims or alleged perpetrators are nationals, or to lands in which the torture is alleged to have occurred...
...has a long and sorry history ofsupporting international human rights instruments up to their very adoption and then failing to ratify them...
...Each state which becomes party to the convention shall, in the convention's sweeping provisions,' 'take effective legislative, administrative, judicial, or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction...
...Now that the U.N...
...The adoption of the convention brings closer to reality the judgment of June, 1980, by the U. S. Federal Court of Appeals for the Second District, which agreed to hear a case against Paraguayan, Americo Peiia-Irala: "The torturer has become, like the pirate and the slave-trader before him...
...The U.S...
...The amendment, as accepted by the sponsors, affords states the opportunity to declare, upon ratification of the convention, that they do not recognize the competence of the Committee against Torture in regard to themselves...
...at the same time may now occur throughout the world in many nations...
...If, as Ambassador Richard Schifter told us at the briefing, the U. S.' 'believes the provisions of the convention calling for universal jurisdiction are essential and fully satisfactory," then President Reagan must submit the convention forthwith to the Senate for ratification...
...Such states are forbidden to extradite accused persons without assurance from the country requesting extradition that it will itself prosecute the accused...
...An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture...
...The General Assembly has now done what it has the power to do...
...The significance of the convention is seen in light of Amnesty International's estimates that a growing proportion of the world's nations now over one-third practice torture as an instrument of national policy...
...It will hear cases concerning governments' failures to bring torturers to justice...
...Though its investigations will be confidential and carried out as far as possible in cooperation with the state concerned, the committee will judge whether a violation has occurred...
...indicate whether it intends to exercise jurisdiction...
...Initially, as religious, non-governmental organizations were briefed on the convention at the U.N...
...notify the state(s) of which the torturer is a national or where the torture is alleged to have been committed...
...proceed to make preliminary inquiry...
...last November, it appeared likely that the convention would be adopted by a majority vote, with many abstentions...
...For the first time in history, an independent, international, juridical body will be set up to receive complaints by individuals, organizations, or states...
...Furthermore, each state party is required to ensure that all acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law...
...The U.S...
...Any state may withdraw such a reservation at a later date...
...Joel Filartiga of Paraguay could bring former Asuncion Inspector-General of Police, PeftaIrala, to court in Brooklyn for crimes committed by torturers under Pena-Irala's authority which resulted in the death of Filartiga's seventeen-year-old son Joelito...

Vol. 112 • May 1985 • No. 9


 
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