Thursday, March 13, 2014

Human Rights: UN expert denounces use of torture-tainted information in States that condemn practice

Photo: UNHCR/B. Szandelszky

12 March 2014 – States that condemn torture while using information and products obtained through the practice in other countries are hypocritical, a United Nations human rights expert declared today, regretting that many Governments refuse to subject their intelligence agencies to strict scrutiny on the subject.

“Governments cannot condemn the evil of torture and other ill-treatment at the international level while condoning it at the national level,” UN Special Rapporteur Juan E. Méndez said in Geneva today as he presented his latest report on the subject to the 25th session of the Human Rights Council, which opened last week and wraps on 28 March.

He told the Council that any use of torture-tainted information, even if the torture has been committed by agents of another State, is an act of acquiescence in torture that compromises the user-State’s responsibility and leads to individual and State complicity in acts of torture.

Mr. Méndez underlined the contradiction and hypocrisy between the fact that some States use information collected by others through torture, all the while having adopted “cardinal principals necessary for preventing and suppressing torture and ill-treatment,” including its absolute prohibition.

“This absolute and non-derogable prohibition also applies to collecting, sharing and receiving torture-tainted information between States during intelligence gathering or covert operations,” he highlighted, adding that States should “refrain from allowing torture-tainted evidence in judicial proceedings or by creating a market for torture-tainted information.”

The Special Rapporteur stressed that prohibition of torture needs to go hand-in-hand with “removing any incentive to undertake torture anywhere in the world,” and regretted that States’ refusal to subject the work of their intelligence/security agencies to scrutiny and/or international oversight “leads to the erroneous conclusion that executive collecting, sharing and receiving of torture-tainted information is not subject to international law.”

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.