EU urges all nations to sign global anti-torture convention
VIENNA, Austria – The European Union, which has been harshly critical of U.S. prisoner abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, urged all nations Monday to sign a global convention against torture and condemned the practice for any reason.”No culture of impunity is acceptable,” the 25-nation bloc warned in a statement coinciding with observances of the United Nations’ ninth annual International Day to Support the Victims of Torture.”The EU resolves to continue and intensify its own efforts to secure a world free from torture,” it said.The EU also said it condemned any attempt by states or public officials to legalize or acquiesce in such treatment “under any circumstances, including on grounds of national security.”The communique did not mention the alleged existence of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe where terror suspects reportedly were held, but the issue – along with the Guantanamo facility – has been of great concern to many European governments.Senior EU leaders pressed President Bush during last week’s EU-U.S. summit in Vienna to shut down Guantanamo and redouble efforts to make sure that human rights are not sacrificed in the war on terror.Bush administration officials have said the U.S. uses legal interrogation techniques – not torture – to gain information that could head off terror attacks.”Torture is not only a tragedy for the victims – the direct and the indirect victims,” the EU said. “Torture is also degrading and injuring to the minds of those who perpetrate torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to societies, which tolerate such outrage.”Austria, which is wrapping up its six-month EU presidency and issued the statement, reaffirmed the EU’s campaign to eradicate torture around the world.Torture and other degrading treatment is prohibited, “and all states must ensure that they do not resort to these barbaric practices,” the EU said, urging governments to sign and ratify the International Convention Against Torture.”Scrutiny and openness are essential factors in combating the insidious practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” the EU said.”The EU attaches immense importance to the U.N.’s role in fighting torture and supporting victims,” the bloc added. It said the EU was continuing work on “political, diplomatic and financial initiatives” to combat torture under EU-wide guidelines drawn up in 2001.The United States is among 141 signatories to the U.N. convention, which has been in place since 1984. The ban is overseen by the U.N. Committee Against Torture, which asked U.S. officials to appear before it last month to review Washington’s compliance.State Department legal adviser John B. Bellinger III, who led a 25-member U.S. delegation at the panel hearings in Geneva, said it was “legally wrong” to say Guantanamo’s existence violates the U.N. convention.There have been about 800 investigations into allegations of mistreatment in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. delegation told the panel. The Defense Department has taken action against more than 250 service personnel, with 89 of those convicted at courts-martial.Bush has said he wants to close Guantanamo, but is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on whether inmates can face military tribunals and is trying to figure out what to do with detainees considered extremely dangerous.In June 2005, the EU adopted a measure prohibiting the export or import of materials whose only practical purpose is to be used to inflict torture or capital punishment.—On the Net:U.N. Committee Against Torture, http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/
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