Human Rights Day: Swiss churches emphasize unconditionality of torture ban

On International Human Rights Day, December 10, the Swiss national churches commemorate the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In a joint declaration, the churches emphasize the unconditionality of the ban on torture, as “torture never leads to more justice.”
Maarten van Heemskerck: De Gerechtigheid

Although banned throughout the world, torture and degrading treatment continue to be practiced today. 155 countries, including Switzerland, ratified the United Nations Convention in 1984. And yet, many countries continue to use unacceptable methods that cannot be justified by any kind of threat or “exceptional situation.” What is as clear as day on a legal level is often seen in an entirely different light in reality.

“At the heart of the ban on torture is the defense of human dignity,” the churches emphasize in their declaration. “There can be no guarantee for human dignity in a state that orders torture, develops methods of torture and trains expert torturers. The absolute ban on torture results from the non-negotiability of human dignity – despite all moral conflicts such as cases of child abduction where the kidnappers refuse to reveal the victim’s location. To formulate exceptions to the ban on torture also means to formulate criteria of exclusion for individuals who then can be stripped of their human dignity,” the churches stated.

On Human Rights Day, the churches encourage all those who value the dignity of human beings as created in God’s image to stand up for the ban on torture. “Powerlessness, injustice and inhumanity have once again become the everyday experience of people in many regions of the world,” state the three signatories of the declaration – Rev. Gottfried Locher, Council President of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches; Bishop Harald Rein for the Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland; and Bishop Markus Büchel, President of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference. In addition, the Swiss churches appeal to the public to sign two petitions launched by Action by Christians Against Torture (ACAT).