EU Presidency Declaration to mark United Nations
International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
26 June 2004
for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, Mr Brian Cowen, speaking as President
of the Council of the European Union, on the occasion of the United Nations
International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (26 June), reaffirmed
the importance that the European Union attaches to the prevention and
eradication of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
or punishment in all parts of the world.
Expressing his abhorrence at the use of torture, Minister Cowen described
torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment as "among
the most abhorrent violations of human rights and human dignity".
The Minister went on to say that this day is an occasion to speak up against
this scourge, to be mindful of those who suffer under it and to pay tribute
to those who combat torture and help victims overcome the physical and
psychological pain, and also an opportunity to call for perpetrators to
be brought to justice.
Referring to the need for international co-operation to eradicate torture,
Minister Cowen said that the EU welcomes and supports the work done by
the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the OSCE in the fight against
torture. Co-operation by States with international mechanisms, such as
the UN Special Rapporteur and the Committee Against Torture, is essential
to make the international system of protection and promotion of human
The Minister said that the EU firmly believes that torture has no place
in the 21st century, and that it can never be justified. It is seventeen
years since the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force. Since then 136 States
have ratified the Convention. Yet torture continues to occur and perpetrators
continue to go unpunished, even in countries that have ratified the Convention.
There is a need for more intensive and concerted action to achieve the
global eradication of torture. As a first step the EU calls on all States
that have not yet done so to ratify the Convention as a concrete step
in the struggle to prevent torture.
The Minister also said that the EU recognises that it is important to
continue to develop new strategies and follow through on those already
in place. The EU therefore calls on all States to consider becoming parties
to the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.
The EU's commitment to the eradication of torture has been underscored
by the adoption in 2001 of Guidelines for an EU Policy towards Third Countries
on Torture. The Guidelines put the issue firmly at the centre-stage of
the Union' human rights policy. This commitment has been demonstrated
by the funding at community and national level for the UN Voluntary Fund
for Victims of Torture.
The Minister also noted the role played by human rights NGOs and human
rights defenders as deserving of particular attention, saying "they
work selflessly, and often at great risk, to bring cases of torture to
the attention of the international community and to assist those at risk
of torture". Their role has been recognised by the EU most recently
by the adoption of EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, which were
welcomed by the June European Council.
The Minister concluded by calling on the international community to stand
together to make the world free from torture.