United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
June 26, 2003
Today, on the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture,
the United States declares its strong solidarity with torture victims across
the world. Torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere. We
are committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected
by the rule of law.
Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right. The Convention Against
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, ratified by the
United States and more than 130 other countries since 1984, forbids governments
from deliberately inflicting severe physical or mental pain or suffering
on those within their custody or control. Yet torture continues to be practiced
around the world by rogue regimes whose cruel methods match their determination
to crush the human spirit. Beating, burning, rape, and electric shock are
some of the grisly tools such regimes use to terrorize their own citizens.
These despicable crimes cannot be tolerated by a world committed to justice.
Notorious human rights abusers, including, among others, Burma, Cuba, North
Korea, Iran, and Zimbabwe, have long sought to shield their abuses from the
eyes of the world by staging elaborate deceptions and denying access to international
human rights monitors. Until recently, Saddam Hussein used similar means
to hide the crimes of his regime. With Iraq's liberation, the world is only
now learning the enormity of the dictator's three decades of victimization
of the Iraqi people. Across the country, evidence of Baathist atrocities
is mounting, including scores of mass graves containing the remains of thousands
of men, women, and children and torture chambers hidden inside palaces and
ministries. The most compelling evidence of all lies in the stories told
by torture survivors, who are recounting a vast array of sadistic acts perpetrated
against the innocent. Their testimony reminds us of their great courage in
outlasting one of history's most brutal regimes, and it reminds us that similar
cruelties are taking place behind the closed doors of other prison states.
The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture
and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join
with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting,
investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to
prevent other cruel and unusual punishment. I call on all nations to speak
out against torture in all its forms and to make ending torture an essential
part of their diplomacy. I further urge governments to join America and others
in supporting torture victims' treatment centers, contributing to the UN
Fund for the Victims of Torture, and supporting the efforts of non-governmental
organizations to end torture and assist its victims.
No people, no matter where they reside, should have to live in fear of their
own government. Nowhere should the midnight knock foreshadow a nightmare
of state-commissioned crime. The suffering of torture victims must end, and
the United States calls on all governments to assume this great mission.