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UN Concerned Torture Will Rise Worldwide Due to Anti-Terror Campaign - 2002-04-05

A Special United Nations Investigator on Torture said he is afraid the incidence of torture will rise around the world in the name of fighting terrorism. The investigator has just submitted a report to the United Nations Human Rights Commission which documents such cases in more than 80 countries.

Dutch human rights expert, Theo Van Boven, said there is already ample evidence that the tragic events of September 11 are undermining human rights around the world. He said many countries, such as Spain, Turkey, Iran and Russia are enacting extreme measures in the name of fighting terrorism.

"The example set by the United States of the war against terrorism will encourage also others to go all out and there is less of a tendency, to monitor that, to get that under control because it is now accepted in a way in the name of fighting terrorism," Mr. Van Boven.

Mr. Van Boven said he does not minimize the serious security problems posed by terrorism. But, he said torturing people regardless of the circumstances is totally inadmissible and only serves to undermine human rights and democracy. He noted a number of countries are adopting anti-terrorist and national security laws that restrict human rights. For instance, he said, they infringe on peoples' rights to privacy, rights to legal counsel and rights of appeal.

"We see already that countries, they transport people because they think that elsewhere the deported people can be better treated and interrogated than where it is forbidden under their own jurisdiction," he said. "And, there are now discussions going on by serious scholars and politicians, they say "well, the prohibition of torture, it is fine, but if we need certain information to counteract terrorism, we can take this prohibition a little lightly and make exceptions."

Mr. Van Boven said the prohibition against torture is absolute and any short-term gains which may arise from torture will be far outweighed by the long-term erosion and loss of human rights.