March 17, 2005
I am grateful to the Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT), Bamenda, for organizing this celebration of Human Rights Day which comes up next Thursday, 10th December. As we all know, next Thursday will be the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1948.
ACAT has kindly asked me to say something on this occasion
about Torture and Human Rights. What I wish to say this afternoon falls under
7 main headings, viz:
i. The meaning of Torture and its Incidence in our world;
ii. Why some States practice or tolerate Torture
iii. The Techniques of Torture
iv. Prohibition of Torture
v. Torture in Cameroon
vi. Religion and Torture
vii. Our Rejection of Torture.
I shall then conclude with a few considerations about the need for education about this horrendous phenomenon and the need for action by all men and women of good will.
I. TORTURE AND ITS INCIDENCE IN OUR WORLD
1. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights briefly
says that “ No one
shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Torture that is practiced by isolated individuals, for example, in the context of the home, is not considered in this paper, even though it is indisputably torture. We shall limit ourselves here to the definition that the United Nations Organization gives to torture in its Convention on this subject. “Torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions”.
2. Although it can be said that the practice of torture is
prohibited under international
law, the fact remains that the General Assembly of the United Nations receives countless Reports every year from United Nations reporters about the widespread use of torture by States around the world. Well documented reports of the practice of torture by States and their agents have been established by such reputable and unimpeachable organizations as Amnesty International and ACAT. By 1979, Amnesty International had established that torture was currently “used against detainees by over fourteen African nations, eleven Asian nations, and four countries in the Americas, eight countries in the Middle East, three countries in Eastern Europe and the (former) Soviet Union”.
3. The African countries in which torture was discovered to
be current practice in1979
included Burundi, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Morocco, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Namibia, Tanzania, Togo,Tunisia, and Zambia.
In spite of the incontrovertible evidence about the existence of the practice of torture, none of the States that practise it ever admit what they are doing.
II. WHY SOME STATES PRACTISE OR TOLERATE TORTURE
4. “Torture is often an integral part of a government’s
security strategy, a component of
the State’s machinery for suppressing dissent. Torture of common criminal suspects may also be a routine aspect of a government’s justice system.
Torture is used to gain information, to obtain a confession, to punish, to intimidate, and to terrorize.” (Amnesty International, Handbook, Seventh Edition, 1992.p.32).
Those who have thoroughly examined this issue inform us that
use torture for one or more of four main purposes, namely:
i. extraction of information from a determined person;
ii. preparation of a prisoner for a show trial;
iii. putting an end to, or even reversing, the political effectiveness of the prisoner;
iv. inculcation of a climate of generalized fear among certain sections of the
5. Some regimes, for example, the French in Algeria during
the Algerian war of
independence, justified the use of torture as a means of self-defence and as a means of
maintaining police morale. The Wuillaume Report on the torture used by the French
police in the interrogation of Algerian prisoners concluded that “to cast aspersions
upon the body of public servants who have so much devotion and indeed so much
heroism to his credit, would be unwise and might lead to serious consequences…… (and that) to forbid any methods of interrogation other than those which are strictly legal……. (would be to) plunge the police into a state of disorder and paralysis. ” The Report referred to the threat posed by Algerian terrorists and cautioned that the benefits of police effectiveness were sufficient justification for applying torture on prisoners.
“The major function of torture today is its use by many
regimes lacking popular
support who desire to inculcate a climate of fear and political apathy in the general population. In the analyses of Amnesty International, to set torture as the price of dissent is to be assured that only a small minority will act. With the majority neutralized by fear, the well-equipped forces of repression can concentrate on an isolated minority.”
6. The Actors responsible for torture can be classified under
three groups or categories:
i. those who give orders for torture to be carried out;
ii. those who directly carry out, or execute, the order to torture, and
iii. those who lend their co-operation to the tortuers.
With regard to those who give orders for totture to be carried
out, it must be said that
“the political power in place carries the primary responsibility for the torture inflicted by its police or its armed forces on the citizens. It is significant that torture is the only form of violence which the State always seeks to deny. The highest rulers in the State in seek anonymity, hide themselves behind feigned ignorance concerning the real activities of the agents of national security.”
Whenever the Government or the Head of State tolerates the use of torture or of degrading and inhuman treatment, top civil servants proceed to set an autonomous machine of repression which soon acquires its own self-identity and dynamism to such an extent that a reversal of the situation becomes very difficult.
Those who execute the orders to torture are generally members of the police or of the armed forces, those in charge of criminal investigation centres, political prisons and other prisons, detention centres, etc. A former French torturer in the OAS (Organization Armee Secrete) in Algeria says: “Once I put my hand to the plough of torture, I got caught in the mesh. No turning back. Why? Simply because it seemed to me that it was my duty… Once you begin to torture, you just continue, without asking yourself any more questions. You become completely blind. The only answer you give to anyone who asks you any question about what you are doing is this: it is not for me to discuss this matter. Others will answer on my behalf”. The torturer, soon considers himself an ordinary technician, carrying out orders.
Those who co-operate with tortures are generally medical doctors.
They are present at the interrogation under torture, of a prisoner or detainee.
The doctor is there to monitor the victim’s physical stamina, to what
extent the victim can sustain torture. He orders a temporary halt to the torture
when there is a risk that the prisoner may succumb and die. Thus, when the victim
has recovered enough energy, the interrogation under torture can continue. The
doctor is there to protect the torturer/interrogator against any possible inquiries,
seeing to it that the victim does not die in the torturer’s hands. In
some cases, the doctor is there to make sure that, in case of death under torture,
a death certificate, which camoflages and disguises the real cause of death
which is immediately established. Any traumatic lessons, fractures, contusions,
etc. will only be partially mentioned or described in the death certificate,
and will be attributed to either a fall or to
injuries which the prisoner will be said to have inflicted upon himself. The death will then be declared as either accidental, or as suicide. Only a counter-expertise carriedout by a different, independent doctor can then establish the truth. But this rarely happens.
III. TECHNIQUES OF TORTURE
i. Physical Abuse
7. “Submarine: The prisoner’s head is submerged
continuously in a tub of filthy
water, urine,excrement, and petroleum while the victim’s sexual organs are squeezed.
Electric shock: Electric shocks are delivered to the sensitive
portions of the victim’s
Body extension: The victim is fastened at the knees or ankles
to a bar suspended from the ceiling and beaten or subjected to shock treatment
or sexually abused. Often
another prisoner or the victim’s spouse is forced to witness the torture. Eventually, the
victim is ‘cut down’ and experiences severe pain on imoact with the floor resulting from the fact that all the blood has drained into the victim’s arms.
Water pipe: The victim is bound and secured. Then the eyes
are bandaged, the nose is plugged up, a tube is thrust into the mouth, and a
strong stream of water is injected
into the mouth until the victim is ‘inflated’ and loses consciousness. The victim is then ‘pumped out’ and the process is again initiated.
Falange: The prisoner is secured to a bench and the soles of the prisoner’s feet are beaten with sticks or pipes by five or six men. Such prolonged beating leads to a painful swelling of the feet, but, other than broken or fractured bones, no lasting overt physical impairment is likely to result. During the torture process the victim is forced to run around the bench periodically and is continuously beaten. These beatings are accompanied by the pouring of water down the victims mouth and nose, rubbing a detergent, soap, or pepper into the victim’s eyes, banging the victim’s head on the bench or floor, and beating other portions of the victim’s body.
Extraction: Teeth, nails and pubic hair are torn out”.
Women often face sexual dgradation of the most horrendous and unspeakable kind at the hand of their male torturers.
ii. Psychological Techniques
“Threats: Prisoners are threatened with maiming, death,
and rape of themselves or their families. Mock executions often are conducted,
and prisoners are forced to witness the torture of their fellow prisoners.
Declarations: Individuals are forced to sign denunciations of their family, spouse, or Political beliefs. This induces a sense of moral compromise.
Drugs: Victims are injected with harmless substances which
they told are toxic.
Nudity: Prisoners are forced to remain in a state of nudity in the cold, damp, often insect-infested cells; or the prisoner is forced to share the cell with a psychiatrically deranged mental patients”.
“The purpose of torture”, says Jean-Paul Sartre, “is not only the erxtraction of confessions, of betrayal: the victim must disgrace himself, by his screams and his submission, like a human animal. In the eyes of everybody and in his own eyes, he who yields under torture is not only to be made to talk, but is also to be marked as sub- human”.
IV. PROHIBITION OF TORTURE
8. Torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
is prohibited under
Reference has already been made to Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which prohibits Torture.
Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights adapted by the
General Assembly of the United Nations on 16 December 1966 says: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In
particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation”. This Covenant was entered into force on 23 March 1976.
On 10 December 1984, the General Assembly of the United Nations
International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment. This Convention entered into force on 26 June 1987.
The United Nations Organisation has adopted these Instruments
and invited its Members
States to ratify them out of a desire to make more effective the struggle against torture
and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“The term ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ refers generally to any harsh treatment that could damage a prisoner’s physical or mental health, or any
punishment meant to cause suffering…. Torture is distinguished from ‘cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment’ only by the severity inflicted by torture, and by the fact that suffering caused by torture is always deliberate.”
9. When a Member State of the United Nations ratifies, or accedes
to, the Convention
against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, what does that mean? What does such ratification or accession imply? By ratification, or accession, such a Member State is saying that the Convention, which is a treaty document, has been formally accepted by the legislative and executive branches of its
own Government. Such ratification, or accession, signifies the assurance given by the
Member State concerned that its own National Laws are in full conformity with – or even exceed – the minimum standards called for in the Convention itself.
10. It is necessary to mention that the prohibition of “torture
and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” is absolute,
unconditional, meaning that the
prohibition admits of no exceptions. Article 2.2 of the Convention says:
“ No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war or internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture”.
And paragraph 3 of the same Article 2 says:
“An order from a superior officer or public authority may not be invoked as a
justification of torture”.
V. TORTURE IN CAMEROON
11. Cameroon declares in the Preamble to its Constitution of
18 January 1996 that it
adheres to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5 of which prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Cameroon has also ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 7 of which prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Cameroon has also ratified the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
12. In spite of this, Torture, including severe beatings, of
both political detainees and
of criminal suspects by the police and gendarmerie are routine practices in Cameroon.” The frequency of beatings of detainees, including on the soles of their feet, was acknowledged publicly at a training seminar for law enforcement officials,
including police, gendarmes and prison officers, organised in July (1994) by the National Commission for Human Rights and Freedoms, which had been inaugurated by President Biya in 1992.”
13. The Endeley Commission of Inquiry created by Order No.
262/CAB/PR of 15
May 1991, issued by the President of the Republic, and “charged with throwing of light on the events that have recently taken place in the University of Yaounde” , established beyond all reasonable doubt the use, by the armed forces , of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment against University students. In this Report, the Endeley Commission noted that brutalities were indeed inflicted on the students by the armed forces. “ Some students were molested by gendarmes. Some had to suffer all sorts of humiliations such as rolling in mud or reciting stupid remarks at gun point. We recorded cases of people who were arrested out of the campus,just anywhere in town or even out of town just for having the word student marked on their cards. It was enough to have the word student on your card for you to be thrown roughly into a truck and driven away either into a police or gendarme cell . In this way many young men and women were molested and deprived of their liberty for hours, even for days. Young ladies had their decency insulted gravely by unscrupulous men in arms”. Members of the Commission had “enough evidence to show that students were beaten with truncheons and hit with gun buts resulting in wounds or swellings”.
The Commission also “found that the chances of rape were very high.”
14. “In March 1994, the United Nations Human Rights Committee
deplored the many
cases of illegal detentions, torture, death sentences, and extra-judicial executions in Cameroon”.
15. It would be too long to narrate the countless instances
which prove beyond any
doubt that torture is endemic in the public life of this country. The Human Rights Reports for Cameroon which are established on a yearly basis by the State Department of the United States of America also prove that torture is not a marginal or incidental phenomenon in our country but rather an on-going plague that is very widespread. The following summary from Amnesty International’s Report entitled:
“ Cameroon - Blatant Disregard for Human Rights”, and dated 16 September 1997,
will close this section on Torture in Cameroon.
“Fundamental human rights are persistently violated in Cameroon. In many cases, these violations occur when the law is deliberately ignored or contravened by the authorities. There is little accountability for Human Rights violations and the perpetrators generally act with impunity.
Hundreds of critics and opponents of the government, in particular, members and supporters of opposition political parties, journalists, human rights activists and students, have been harassed and assaulted, arrested and imprisoned. Torture and ill-treatment by the security forces of both political detainees and common-law prisoners is routine. Some victims have died as a result of injuries inflicted while in custody. Others have been killed when the security forces used what appeared to be excessive lethal force. Conditions in Cameroon’s prisons amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and result in a high mortality rate. More than one hundred prisoners are reported to be under sentence of death; the first execution since 1988 was reported to have taken place in January 1997.
Detainees are often held beyond the legal limit allowed by law before being brought before a judicial authority to be either charged or released. In other cases legislation allowing administrative detention has been used to detain critics and opponents of the government without charge or trial and without the right to challenge their detention before a court. Where the courts have ordered the release of political detainees, the administrative authorities have in some cases refused to comply with the court’s ruling. Often there are serious irregularities in judicial procedures in cases brought against government opponents. A revised Constitution which was signed into Law in January 1996 did little to strengthen the independence of the judiciary.
In addition to violations of the law by government authorities, there is also widespread abuse by traditional rulers, who act with the tacit approval of the government. Traditional Rulers, in particular in the North of Cameroon, continue to detain illegally and ill-treat political opponents”.
VI. RELIGIONS AND TORTURE
16. The world’s great Religions generally accept the
Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others what
you would have others do to you’.
In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, Article 7 addresses the evils of torture in the following words:
(a) “It is not permitted to torture the criminal, still
less the suspect: ‘God will inflict punishment on those who have inflicted
torture in this world. Likewise, it is not permissible to compel anyone to confess
to a crime which he has not committed; and all that is elicited by compulsion
is null and void: ‘ God has taken from my community sin, forgetfulness
and all that they have done under compulsion”.
(b) Whatever be the crime of an individual, and whatever be the punishment decreed for it in the saria, his human nature and his dignity as a son of Adam remain inviolate”.
17. For Christians, the abolition of torture is demanded by
biblical faith. The Bible says
that all people, men and women, are made in the image and likeness of God. This point is made clear in the Book of Genesis:
“God created man in the image of
Himself, in the image of God He
Created them” (Genesis 1:27).
In St. Mathew’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus tells His disciples: “ So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets” (Mt.7:12). A Christian immediately understands the implications of these words as far as the practice of torture is concerned.
In the Letter to the Hebrews, we find the following words: “Keep in mind those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; and those who are being badly treated, since you too are in the one body” (Hebrews 13:3).
Christians believe that “To the sons of Adam (Jesus)
restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward.
Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has
been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His Incarnation
the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man”. This
means that when I torture any person, it is Jesus Himself that I torture.
18. According to the Second Vatican Council, “Whatever is opposed to life itself such as
any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful self-destruction; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as sub-human living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator”.
19. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about torture:
“In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adapted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights for the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors”.
20. What about the death penalty?
Is it legitimate? Is it not a cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment? Should it not be entirely abolished everywhere? In fact, a good number of countries have abolished the death penalty. On this extremely difficult and delicate question, here is what the Catholic Church has to say:
“There is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with God’s plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is ‘to redress the disorder caused by the offence’. Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment of the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfills the purpose of defending public order and ensuring peoples safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated. It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organisation of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent”.
This teaching of Pope John Paul II has been inserted into the definitive version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
VII . OUR REJECTION OF TORTURE
21. In conformity with Article 2 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to which we already referred, our rejection of torture must be total, absolute and unconditional.
Unfortunately, there are Christians who, probably out of ignorance, are prepared to justify torture “in certain cases” of emergency or of grave peril. For any Christian who lives in coherence with his Faith, there are no circumstances whatsoever in which torture would be justified. It is always and everywhere totally inadmissible.
“Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature ‘incapable of being ordered’ to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church’s moral tradition, have been termed ‘intrinsically evil’: they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that ‘there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of the object”.
The International Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment holds its rightful place among the Instruments by which the United Nations seeks to achieve an effective protection and promotion of human rights and freedoms. Certain rights are natural rights. If, as Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights solemnly proclaims “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, it follows that human rights existed long before the formation of the state. In other words, the State is not required to grant any "recognition" of these rights because they must necessarily derive from the dignity that is inherent in every human being who is independent of State structures.
23. It is absolutely essential that we hold firmly and uncompromisingly to the following two assertions:
First, Human Rights are indivisible. This means that it is not possible to invoke one right as an excuse for the violation of another right. The human person consists of body and soul. These rights concern people who necessarily belong to a community, since man is social by nature.
Secondly, Human Rights are universal, which stems from the fact that all human beings share the same human nature, and that is why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights exists. “It is a matter for serious concern that some people today deny the universality of human rights, just as they deny that there is a human nature shared by everyone”.
Need for Education
24. In order that human rights may be effectively protected and promoted, and in order that every citizen may be able to enjoy these rights without let or hindrance, all of us need to be educated about them. Everyone of us needs to become personally aware about the gravity and seriousness of this whole issue, about what is at stake, so as to keep alive our firm convictions concerning the values that we need to defend without compromise, to uphold, to promote, and to foster.
We have a duty to get ourselves informed about what is happening around us, in our own country, and in the world. By thus getting ourselves informed, we will be in a position to lend our support to human rights activists in our country, to make our own contribution towards the triumph of justice, to express our solidarity with the victims of human rights abuses and with their families, and to support those national and international humanitarian organisations which are struggling in order that the rule of law may be upheld everywhere. We need to be educated, too, about how to seek redress when human rights are violated, either in our country or abroad.
25. This education also concerns the law enforcement agents of the State. It is indispensable. Article 10 of the International Convention against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment says:
1. “Each State Party shall ensure that education and information regarding the prohibition against torture are fully included in the training of law enforcement personnel, civil or military, medical personnel, public officials and other persons who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment”.
2. “Each State Party shall include this prohibition in the rules or instructions issued in regard to the duties and functions of any such person”.
26. Lack of education on human rights on the part of some members of law enforcement personnel can result in some rather bizzare situations. On 7 May 1992, Dr. Solomon Nfor Gwei, President of the National Human Rights Commission created by Decree No. 90/1459 of 8 November 1990, paid an official visit to a commissariat at the Gendamerie Legion, in Yaounde, duly accompanied by the State Officer of Prosecutions as provided by the Decree, with the intention of visiting the detention cells at the Commissariat. The gendarmes on duty categorically refused to allow Dr. Nfor Gwei, and the State Prosecutions Officer accompanying him, access to the cells to exercise their duties and prerogatives as laid down in the Presidential Decree. The gendarmes did not stop there. As Dr. Nfor Gwei and the State Prosecutions Officer were about to leave the Commissariat, they were instead sequestrated by the gendarmes, i.e., held under detention. They were only later released on the intervention of a higher officer, who, before releasing the hapless detainees, confiscated the material equipment which they had brought along for work. This incident was duly reported to the Fourth Plenary Assembly of the National Human Rights Commission held at Yaounde on 2*3 June 1992.
A similar incident again took place at Yaounde in the course
of 1994 : “when a lawyer
From the Public Prosecutions Office visited a Police Station in Yaounde in October 1994 to inspect detainees; he was himself held for five hours, stripped and beaten. Six police officers were subsequently arrested”. Incidents such as these, and the fact that law enforcement personnel can, for most of the time, commit such illegal acts with impunity, illustrates how much all of us, including the law enforcement personnel, stand in need of education. The fact also that sentences passed by the Courts against law enforcement officers who violate the human rights of citizens are brazenly and blatantly ignored, with impunity, shows how much we all need to be educated about human rights and freedoms.
Need for Action
27. It is very important for all of us to join the struggle for the abolition of torture. For that we need to employ the strategy: SEE, JUDGE, and ACT. ACAT has taken the lead. It deserves to be supported and encouraged with enthusiasm by everyone of us.
We should not allow torture to become even more endemic than it is already. It should be totally eliminated. Torture dehumanizes both the victim as well as the torturer. It dehumanizes the torturer even more than his victim.
It is our duty to assist all the law enforcement personnel in every way in order that they may, all of them, without exception, reject torture. As Article 2, paragraph 3, of the Convention against torture says: “An order from a Superior Officer or a Public Authority may not be invoked as justification for torture”.
28. The consciences of Christians and of Christian Communities
need to be awakened and sensitized so that we may all face the reality of torture
and join in the struggle for its total elimination. Victims and torturers alike
need liberation. For this struggle, one of the principal and efficacious arms
which Christians must use is prayer, followed by:
- acts of solidarity with the victims of torture and their families
- legal action
- pressure on the State Institution.
29. On 26 April 1994, Amnesty International addressed a letter to all the Bishops who were in Rome for the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, appealing to them to engage the Church resolutely in the struggle for Human Rights in Africa. The issue of Justice and Peace as well as of Human Rights received by far the greatest number of interventions in the Synod hall. And that is reflected in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Africa. Amnesty International deserves our firm and committed support.
May the courageous and exemplary action of Amnesty International, of ACAT – Bamenda, ACAT – Cameroon, and of other humanitarian organisations be abundantly blessed by Almighty God. May it succeed in eliminating torture from this country. May these Organisations go from strength to strength in their noble mission of protecting and promoting Human Rights and Freedoms in Cameroon, in Africa, and in the world.
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