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UN rights chief condemns abuses in terror fight, urges adherence to torture ban

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] denounced human rights abuses committed during the war on terror Friday, urging governments to give terror suspects a fair trial and reminding them of the "absolute ban on torture" in remarks to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) [official website; JURIST news archive]. In her statement [transcript; recorded video], Arbour said:

International law requires that the prohibition of torture be ensured by active measures: in addition to not engaging in acts of torture themselves, states have a positive obligation to protect individuals from exposure to torture. No cogent argument, whether normative or empirical, has been advanced to support a departure from the torture prohibition in the fight against terrorism. Whatever its asserted effectiveness, torture delegitimizes State action to the point where the State can no longer assert its moral authority.
Arbour added "the reported existence of secret detention centers where suspects are held incommunicado, is also of grave concern."

The HRC is mid-way through its inaugural session [opening ceremony statements; JURIST report] as the permanent replacement of the now disbanded UN Commission on Human Rights [official website]. The Council's first meeting is focused on establishing new operating procedures, particularly the format of a universal periodic review to evaluate the human rights records of all countries. Reuters has more.

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