Press release on the occasion of the international day in support of victims of torture.

TODAY, ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY IN SUPPORT OF VICTIMS OF TORTURE, THE MARANGOPOULOS FOUNDATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (MFHR), wishes to express its deep concern for the widespread practice of torture almost everywhere in the world. This gross violation of fundamental human rights is a disgrace to the State and the society of the 21st century and puts into question the essence of the notions of democracy and the rule of law, as well as of humanism itself.

In spite of the sensitization of the international community for the unconditional prohibition of torture, and of the adoption of international instruments which have branded it an international crime - in particular the two Conventions against torture of the UN and the Council of Europe respectively -, in more than 150 countries, instances of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by public officials, especially members of the police, security and armed forces, continue unabated. In the last three years, there have been reports of deaths as a result of torture in more than 80 countries - not to mention the permanent disabilities, which are a much more common consequence thereof.

Torture and ill-treatment by the authorities continue to take place not only in countries like China, many Latin-American and African States, but also in countries of Western Europe and North America.

In fundamentalist countries, in particular, women are subject to inhuman treatment which suppresses their human identity, since self-determination is prohibited in almost all aspects of life. And the powerful of this Earth carry on their lucrative dealings with these countries, unmoved by the complete disregard of human rights demonstrated by the policies of such States.

We must not forget that alongside torture proper, which is practiced by public officials, there are many widespread forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment which public officials, but also private individuals, inflict on socially vulnerable groups and individuals. It is also not unusual, in every country in the world, that the family itself is a den of abuse, especially of women and children.

Despite the existence of international instruments, torturers in most cases enjoy impunity, either because they are under the veiled protection of public authorities, or because their victims simply "disappear" or do not dare to denounce the perpetrators.

In times of international or internal armed conflict, torture is used by members of the opposing forces as a means for exterminating and terrorizing combatants and non-combatants, men and women, adults and children, as we are reminded by the dark experiences of Rwanda, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia.

The arsenal of torturers has been further enriched by technological developments, e.g. hallucinatory chemical substances and new devices for electroshocks, with a view to producing greater physical and mental suffering and harm without leaving visible signs on the body.

In our region, we must draw attention to two tragic occurrences related to torture:

A. Torture in Turkey

Reports of well-established NGOs, and especially the repeated convictions by the European Court of Human Rights, as well as the reports of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), confirm the gross and multifarious violations of basic human rights in Turkey, a Member State of the Council of Europe and a candidate for entry into the European Union.

Particularly in Turkish prisons, there is a widespread practice of torture and lasting solitary confinement - a special form of torture. The victims are mostly political prisoners, which amount to 12 000, the large majority of which are human rights defenders. The fact that more than 1 000 political prisoners in Turkey engaged in a hard struggle against their transfer to F-type prisons cells known as "white cells", to the point that during such transfer more than 130 were injured and 32 lost their lives, but also that they continue to die as a result of a hunger strike until death (to date, 24 persons have died), is sufficient proof that the despair caused by such cruel and inhuman treatment led them to prefer death instead.

The MFHR promptly mobilized with respect to the appalling situation prevailing in Turkish prisons as well as the persecutions of human rights defenders in that country, and took a number of initiatives: submission of documents to relevant international bodies, first and foremost the CPT, oral and written statements at the 57th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, mission of our representative to Turkey, etc.
On this day, we feel compelled to raise the issue and to demand that and end be put immediately to the solitary confinement of political prisoners in Turkey in contravention of articles 37 and 38 of the European Prison Rules adopted by the Council of Europe (and which, consequently, constitutes torture) and to the persecution of human rights defenders.

B. Use of depleted uranium missiles

We consider it necessary to draw attention to the inhuman and unnecessary use, by order of NATO rulers, of a great number of depleted uranium missiles during the wars against Iraq and Yugoslavia (in Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo), which have been proven to cause numerous deaths, following painful and tormenting cancerous illnesses, among soldiers and the local population that have been exposed to the very long-term radioactivity emitted by such missiles, as well as serious birth defects in the descendants of these persons.

The MFHR, together with the Bar Associations as well as Judges and Prosecutors of Greece, submitted an application to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia against the NATO rulers who ordered the use of depleted uranium missiles.

In view of the above,

We call upon

International organizations, international bodies and NGOs not to protest only with words, simply to ease our conscience.

International law provides a wide specter of means of putting pressure on States which take the lead in torture and the inhuman abasement of Human Beings. Let us protect them effectively, returning them to their rightful place, namely above profiteering and the self-centered and arrogant interests which curb our resistance.

We call upon all
To act together. Sooner or later - in the course of history, whether international, national or even personal - if we remain indifferent and allow the expansion of such inhuman and degrading practices, our turn will come!

26 June 2

Prof A. Yotopoulos-Marangopoulos
President of MFHR