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    Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1651
    Release Date:  23 June 2000
    General Assembly President Pledges Action to Eradicate Torture,
    In Message on International Day in Support of Victims

    NEW YORK, 23 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of the President of the General Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, observed 26 June:

    Twenty-six June marks the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.  The Day was proclaimed by the General Assembly to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the entry into force, in 1997, of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment.  The Assembly did so with a view to the total eradication of torture and the effective functioning of the Convention. 

    Torture is defined as a breach of a non-derogable human right which cannot be justified under any circumstances.  Its systematic and widespread practice is characterized as a crime against humanity under international law.  Torture is prohibited by article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by other human rights instruments adhered to by the majority of Member States. 

    In its most recent resolution on torture, the General Assembly called upon all governments, United Nations bodies and agencies, as well as relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, to commemorate the Day.

    In response, the principal actors of the United Nations system involved in the fight against torture launched a Joint Declaration in which they stated that impunity of torturers, regardless of their status, cannot be tolerated.  The Declaration urged States which have not done so to ensure that torture is a crime under their domestic law, to become parties to the Convention and accept its optional protocols, and also to become parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  That Joint Declaration also acknowledged the valuable work of governments, associations, groups and individuals in contributing to the effective elimination of all forms of torture, and commended, in particular, the persistent efforts by non-governmental organizations to combat torture and alleviate the suffering of its victims.

    Thousands of victims of torture and members of their families are assisted annually through the  support of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.  Grants are offered to organizations that provide medical, psychological, social, economic, legal and humanitarian assistance to victims and family members. 

    Let this Day be a reminder to us all that we owe it to the victims of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment to redouble our efforts to eradicate torture.  We must do whatever we can to help victims of torture to participate fully again in society.  As President of the United Nations General Assembly, I pledge to do my part by raising awareness and mobilizing action in this regard.

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