11 Sep 2002
A call for courage and conviction

The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) today expressed its support for all those who lost friends and family on 11 September 2001. The unprecedented impact of the terrorist attacks in the USA was felt worldwide, with victims coming from more than 80 countries.

As an international health professional organisation concerned with the rehabilitation of victims of torture and trauma, the IRCT recognises that the commemoration of 11 September this year is an important milestone in coming to terms with the events of last year.

The IRCT today calls on the world's governments to reflect on the developments that have taken place since 11 September, and to join together with courage and conviction in preserving the fundamental human rights and inherent dignity of all. Further, the IRCT calls on the international community to ensure that measures taken as part of the 'war against terror' do not inflict unnecessary injury, suffering, or death to civilian populations. The IRCT also points out the right of asylum-seekers from such populations to be treated humanely and with dignity and calls upon governments to review their policies accordingly.

In commemorating 11 September, the IRCT urges the international community to give meaning to those who lost their lives, by reaffirming their commitment to uphold fundamental values in human rights, freedom, and democracy, without compromising the mandate and role of the United Nations. As the governments of the USA and the UK seek to mobilise support for military intervention in Iraq, the IRCT reminds the international community that such action cannot be considered just without the authorisation of the UN Security Council, without there being a clearly identified basis for a serious threat to peace and security, and until all other measures are exhausted.

The IRCT also notes with concern the many Governments that are placing 'state sovereignty' above and beyond their international human rights obligations. The IRCT has witnessed, with increasing alarm, that the 'war against terror' has been used by Governments to over-ride the fundamental rights of the individual. Since 11 September 2001, a number of governments have introduced legislative measures to curtail basic civil and political rights, and staff of rehabilitation centres for torture victims and other human rights defenders have been increasingly targeted.

The question of the use of torture, despite its prohibition under international law, returned to political and public agenda's as part of the 'war against terror' rhetoric. Asylum seekers and refugees have been painted with the same brush as terrorists, and used unjustly to promote fear during election campaigns across Europe and the Pacific. In several countries, asylum seekers are held for long periods in detention without justification and in environments that are psychologically damaging, particularly to children. The IRCT urges the Government of Australia to accept the findings of the recently released report on mandatory detention, produced by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The IRCT condemns any act of terror. However, it takes courage and conviction for the world community to over-come the threat of terror by promoting global peace and security without compromising the basic human rights that such terror seeks to violate.

The IRCT is an independent health professional organisation, which promotes and supports the rehabilitation of torture victims and works for the prevention of torture worldwide. The IRCT supports or collaborates with more than 200 rehabilitation centres for victims of torture worldwide.

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