UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Friday warned people and nations that practice torture [JURIST report] that they cannot escape the reach of justice [statement]. Commemorating the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Pillay noted that 45 UN member states have not ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [text] and that many states party continue to practice torture. Pillay also expressed concern over democracies that generally abide by the rule of law but have maintained amnesties that prevent torturers from being brought to justice:
Torture is an extremely serious crime, and in certain circumstances can amount to a war crime, a crime against humanity or genocide. No one suspected of committing torture can benefit from an amnesty. That is a basic principle of international justice and a vital one.Pillay promised that the international criminal tribunals and the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] would continue to prosecute those responsible for torture when national courts fail to act.
Earlier this month, UN rights experts called on the UN Human Rights Council [official website] to investigate findings [JURIST report] from a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] released earlier this year detailing the secret imprisonment of terrorism [JURIST news archives] suspects by 66 countries, including the US, Ethiopia, Romania and Pakistan. UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment Manfred Nowak [official website] indicated that secret prisons [JURIST news archive] remain a widespread problem and can often lead to torture. Last month, The UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) [official website] urged Syria, Yemen and Jordan to conduct thorough investigations [JURIST report] into allegations of torture by law enforcement officials.