National Consultation on the Implementation of the UN Convention against Torture (25 01 2017)
Speech of HE Sophie Aubert, Ambassador of France to Bangladesh
Dear speakers and dear guests.
This year, we are 30 years after the adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations of the convention against Torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading Treatments entered into force, 26th June 1987. 159 countries have ratified this convention so far. Bangladesh ratified this convention in 1998.
In Bangladesh, the civil society complains that this ratification :
· First had not been turned into law for a long time,
· Second, even after the convention was turned into law a few years ago, under pressure of the victims and NGOs, the law had no impact on the practice.
I would like to insist that whenever and wherever there is a law or not, torture should not be legally admitted, for two reasons at least :
· Torture has been universally recognized as a crime and even as a crime against
humanity when it comes to be a systematic practice.
· The prohibition of torture is part of the international customary law.
This means that the respect of this prohibition is mandatory for all the members of
the international community, whether they adopted the Convention or not, whether
they ratified it or not. Nevertheless, we can all observe that these principles and international customary law are not enough.
Torture and degrading treatments are still a very common practice used against human
beings in many places of the world, and not only in the countries facing a war.
Besides, at certain times, the use of torture has been admitted and recognized, even
legalized in some countries. I will not comment some very recent statements that we heard here. A main concern is that we can observe a growing tolerance for the act of torture in many parts of the world.
We all know that the growing terror attacks that we have had here in Bangladesh and all over the world including in my country are sometimes taken as a justification for accepting the idea of torture, if not the use of torture. Tolerance is growing regarding torture, because innocent citizens are suffering and are killed by monsters which ideology of death and behaviors frighten all of us. I have read recently that in France, whereas 34% of the people were considering in 2000 that torture can be used against people supposed to have detonated a bomb, today in 2016, they are 54% to approve the use of torture under this condition, having detonated a bomb.
Therefore, talking about torture, we must recognize that we can’t avoid addressing the issue of morality. We can see that in some countries in the world, the response to this question is yes, even though there is no public debate to address this question, as officially, for the many signatory countries of the Convention against torture, there should be no room for this question.
Beyond the international principles and customary law, the question would be : is it moral to practice torture in order to protect innocent people from death ?
We should never forget that torture is prohibited by international law because it is an
inhuman practice. It is essential not to open the door to any practice of torture, whatever the motivation, not only because it is a crime and it is prohibited, but also because considering the human being, there is very little from humanity to barbarity.
We cannot trust the human being. For this reason in my view, the moral approach tells us that nothing can justify the use of torture.
Odkikar is right to take the initiative to propose a national consultation about the issue of torture. Clearly, nobody likes to address this issue because we all know morally that it should not be practiced and that’s the reason why, apart from some exceptions, the practice of torture is denied and hidden. Of course it is also important to implement the UN Convention, but as said before, there should be no discussion about the fact that torture should be prohibited whatever the circumstances, as this principle is part of the international customary law, which requires all States to respect it.
Perhaps the most important point in the national consultation should be in my view the
sensitization of the public opinion, starting from the fact that we have seen individuals
torturing children, women and all sort of weak people. The law enforcement forces are not the only ones responsible for practicing torture. Torture can also be used by individuals against other individuals.
We saw when it happened to be made public here that the society as a whole strongly
denounced these acts against weak children in particular. Calling for the humanity and the morality of the human beings and citizens is a first approach which could be explored. My country is fully committed to advocating against the practice of torture all over the world.
We support Odhikar’s initiative.