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Ambassador Harper: Remarks on the 30th Anniversary of the U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT)
November 5, 2014

Remarks By Ambassador Keith Harper
U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council

30th Anniversary Celebration of the CAT

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

United Nations Office at Geneva

Thank you.

Madam Vice Chair, Excellencies, and distinguished guests:

I am honored to be here today to join in celebrating the anniversary of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

On behalf of the United States, I thank the panelists for their thoughtful remarks.

I also welcome the High Commissioner, and members of the Committee Against Torture present with us today.

Members of the Committee are experts of high moral standing and recognized competence in the field of human rights.

Working in their personal capacities, they dedicate extensive time to the Convention and to the nations with whom they interact, and deserve our deep gratitude.

On December 10, 1984, the General Assembly adopted the Convention Against Torture.

Since then, the Convention has been ratified by 156 countries, and stands among the core international human rights treaties.

As President Obama has said: This convention “affirms the essential principle that under no circumstances is torture ever justified.”

The absolute prohibition of torture is a fundamental precept to the United States.  It is a violation of law and of human dignity, and contrary to our values. For that reason, the United States took a leading role in the negotiation of the Convention.

We listened with interest to today’s discussion on promoting the Universal Ratification of the Covenant, and applaud those who are working towards universal ratification.


We also support efforts such as the UN Fund for Victims of Torture. The United States has contributed more than $85 million dollars to the fund since Fiscal Year 2000.

This fund has a pedigree longer than the Convention and we also celebrate it today.

Since its inception in 1981, the fund has provided rehabilitation to countless victims worldwide.  It has awarded grants to more than 600 organizations, providing rehabilitation to more than 50,000 victims each year.  We should pause to reflect on the number – 50,000 victims each year.

It is a sobering reminder to us that there is much work ahead to eradicate the scourge of torture – still far too widespread around the world.

It is also among the many reasons why universal ratification matters and why this event matters. We join here as a community to reaffirm the criticality of the Convention we celebrate today.

Thank you.