26 June 2001


NEW YORK, 25 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the United Nations International Day of Solidarity in Support of Victims of Torture, 26 June:

Torture is an atrocious violation of human dignity. It dehumanizes both the victim and the perpetrator.

The pain and terror deliberately inflicted by one human being upon another leave permanent scars: spines twisted by beatings, skulls dented by rifle butts, recurring nightmares that keep the victims in constant fear.

Freedom from torture is a fundamental human right that must be protected under all circumstances. Growing awareness of international legal instruments and protection mechanisms gives hope that the wall of silence around this terrible practice is gradually being eroded.

But ending the impunity with which torture has been practised will take all our collective strength. It means prosecuting torture as the international crime it is. It means ratifying and implementing the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and following the related Principles on Effective Investigation and Documentation. It means ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which defines torture as a crime against humanity and a war crime. And it will mean raising the level of education and development in every society.

Non-governmental organizations are in the forefront of the struggle against torture, and rehabilitation centres are working hard to alleviate the suffering of torture victims. Let us salute them, and also thank those Governments that have provided crucial financial support through the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture. I call on all countries to give generously, so that an even greater number of projects can be funded in 2002.

Today, as we remember the suffering and courage of torture victims, let us also vow to build a society based on mutual understanding, in which such inhumanity becomes unthinkable.

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