*** ELIMINATING TORTURE
Statement to the forty-fourth session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
Agenda item 10 (a): Question of the human rights of all persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment, in particular -- Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
19 February 1988
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As Special Rapporteur Mr. P. J. Kooijmans has pointed out, "a society that tolerates torture can never claim to respect other human rights; the duty to eradicate torture is thus a primordial obligation" (E/CN.4/1987/13). Accordingly, the Baha'i International Community welcomes the entry into force of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. We believe that the Committee on Torture can play an important part in encouraging the implementation of the provisions of the Convention. The role of the Special Rapporteur is also significant in this respect, given the Commission's ongoing need to be apprised of the current dimensions of the problem.
Torture represents a perversion of human nature and a degradation of conduct on the part of its perpetrators; the practice of torture should be regarded as pernicious disease afflicting the body politic. Consequently, we entirely endorse Mr. Kooijman's statement, that while legislative and judicial measures are required, the campaign "has to acquire the character of a crusade against the root causes of torture."
While immediate steps must be taken to curb the disease, to eradicate the contemporary practice of torture, long-term educational and other measures designed to prevent its recurrence should be initiated. Contempt for the personality of another individual has been identified as one of the root causes of the problem (E/CN.4/1987/13). Therefore, educational programmes should aim at developing a perception of the intrinsic value of every human being, in a manner consonant with the recognition in the Charter of the United Nations of the "dignity and worth of human persons," and of "the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family."
Since the widespread use of torture is a symptom of alienation in modern society, the educational aspect of the remedy should aim at encouraging the elimination of the prejudices that are contributing to it, whatever their nature may be: cultural, ethnic, political, racial or religious.
We believe that, in order to be effective, such programmes should have two aims. The first is to promote a spirit of free inquiry and independent investigation that will permit the individual to examine for himself the spiritual values of others, their behaviour and culture. The second is to foster an awareness of man's common humanity and of our collective responsibility for the welfare of mankind.
Baha'i communities around the world are implementing educational programmes along these lines. They are also continuing to publicize the Convention against Torture and the work of the Committee, inasmuch as we believe that the united efforts of the international community and the Commission are of the greatest significance in the campaign to eradicate the heinous problem posed by the widespread practice of torture.
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