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HUMAN RIGHTS DAY: INDEPENDENT EXPERTS REAFFIRM PROHIBITION OF TORTURE IS ABSOLUTE

9 December 2005


The following statement was issued today by 33 independent human rights experts of the United Nations:

“On the occasion of Human Rights Day, we express alarm at attempts by many States to circumvent provisions of international human rights law by giving new names to old practices. Whereas international instruments stress that human rights are at the foundation of any democratic society, more and more frequently they are portrayed as an obstacle to government efforts to guarantee security. This trend is illustrated by debates on the absolute prohibition of torture: a ban that recently had seemed an undisputed cornerstone of human rights law, anchored in numerous international legal instruments, but also accepted as a principle of jus cogens.

“For this reason we would like to reaffirm that the very rationale of human rights is that they provide minimum standards that have to be respected by States at all times, in particular when new challenges arise. All human rights, economic, social and cultural as well as civil and political, are inalienable rights of every single person. They cannot be brushed aside by Governments when they become ‘inconvenient’.

“The physical and mental integrity of the person is essential to the web of minimum guarantees of respect for the human dignity, which is at the core of international human rights and a precondition for peace and development. As confirmed by article 2 of the Convention Against Torture and by articles 4 and 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, torture and any form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are prohibited in all circumstances, including during a state of emergency.

“We are determined, in the framework of our respective mandates, to continue our work as defenders of all the human rights of all persons. Looking to the values enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and other UN instruments, we reject the artificial opposition between human rights and national security. Indeed, there can be no security without respect for human rights”.

The Independent Experts are:

· Ghanim Alnajjar, Independent Expert appointed by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Somalia
· Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions
· Amada Benavides, Chairperson of the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries as a Means of Impeding the Exercise of the Right of Peoples to Self-determination
· Jorge Bustamente, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants
· Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers
· Doudou Diène, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
· John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967
· Yakin Erturk, Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences
· Yash Ghai, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia
· Sigma Huda, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children
· Paul Hunt, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
· Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
· Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders
· Louis Joinet, Independent Expert appointed by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Haiti
· Walter Kälin, Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons
· Miloon Kothari, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living
· Ambeyi Ligabo, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
· Gay McDougall, Independent Expert on Minority Issues
· Juan E Méndez, Special Adviser to the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide
· Bernards A.N. Mudho, Independent Expert on the effects of economic reform policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights
· Vernor Muñoz, Special Rapporteur on the right to education
· Vitit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
· Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
· Akich Okola, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi
· Juan Miguel Petit, Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
· Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar
· Sima Samar, Special Rapporteur on the situation on human rights in the Sudan
· Martin Scheinin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism
· Adrian Severin, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus
· Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people
· Stephen Toope, Chair, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
· Leïla Zerrougui, Chair, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
· Jean Ziegler, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food