Vol. 5 Num 289 Sun. March 20, 2005  

UN reminds members to sign anti-torture protocol

The UN called on all countries Friday to sign an anti-torture protocol that would allow surprise visits at detention centres after only six nations signed up to it in the two years since it was first adopted.

"Torture has resurfaced as a critical international human rights issue," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said Friday as she presented an annual report.

The protocol is designed to prevent torture rather than act after lives have already been destroyed by abuse while in detention.

So far only Albania, Argentina, Denmark, Liberia, Malta and the United Kingdom have signed the protocol (that could only come into effect once 20 nations have signed it) after the UN general assembly added it to the convention against torture in December 2002.

Arbour, a Canadian judge, said recent instances "give the impression not only that the practice (of torture) is increasing across a range of member states but that the very existence of the absolute prohibition on the use of torture is being questioned."