Ex-U.N. rights chief compares ‘war on terror’ torture to Nazi crime

Louise Arbour, a Canadian lawyer and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on Saturday criticized the use of torture in the global war on terror and compared it to crimes committed by the Nazis during World War II.

In the so-called war on terror, allegations have been made that torture was used in counter-terrorism operations, and some people have argued that it was inevitable, Arbour, the winner of the 2016 Tang Prize in rule of law, said during a speech in Taipei.

Arbour, who is visiting Taiwan to receive the award, said she was opposed to the idea that because it was illusory to eradicate the use of torture, it would be better to regulate torture so that it is only used in extreme circumstances under judicial supervision.

"It is a total perversion of the rule of law reminiscent of the one described by Justice Barak where the Nazis made sure to follow all the rules before exterminating people," the 69-year-old lawyer said.

"This attempt to enroll the law in the service of degrading, dehumanizing or discriminatory practices is not an application of the rule of law but an affront to the very concept," Arbour said in her speech attended by local legal experts, researchers and students at the Howard Civil Service International House.

The rule of law requires that the state not infringe on the life and security of individuals and to provide all people with equal protection and the benefit of the law without discrimination, she said.

"A purely formal, procedural understanding of the rule of law provides order, but not justice," Arbour said. "As a tool for domestic peace and prosperity, it is justice, not just order that is required."

Arbour said she believed it was important to incorporate human rights into the rule of law, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as rights for women, children, indigenous people, migrants, refugees and people with disabilities.

"The advocacy of the rule of law must therefore encompass advocacy of human rights protection and promotion," she said. "Without it, the rule of law is impoverished and with it, both development and security interests are advanced."

Arbour has served as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and for Rwanda (ICTR).

In 1998, Arbour became the first prosecutor to get a conviction of genocide in an international tribunal, when the ICTR convicted Jean-Paul Akayesu, a mayor in Rwanda, of genocide.

The following year, as the chief prosecutor for the ICTY, Arbour again made history by indicting Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who became the first sitting head of state to be tried for war crimes by an international tribunal.

While serving as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2004 to 2008, Arbour continued to speak out against honor killings, human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, war crimes in Darfur and other injustices.

She has also provoked controversy by criticizing Israel's military policies in Lebanon and by criticizing the U.S-led war on terror for undermining the global ban on torture.

The Tang Prize is awarded to Arbour "for her enduring contributions to international criminal justice and the protection of human rights, to promoting peace, justice and security at home and abroad, and to working within the law to expand the frontiers of freedom for all," according to the Tang Prize citation.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel