Conventional cause for celebration

Youd have to search hard for it among all todays headlines about Prince Harry (including the Dailys Stars When Harry met Tali)  but theres a story around today that we should all add to our lists of things to celebrate this weekend.

Mine, by the way, includes Mothers Day, of course, and also, I hope, finally booking a summer holiday. But I digress. What was it that had one of my colleagues talking of a seminal moment?

Yesterday, the European Court of Human Rights reaffirmed the absolute prohibition on torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment by throwing out a case brought by the Italian authorities, which sought to deport Nassim Saadi to Tunisia, arguing that he posed a security risk.  The court did so after reviewing reports from Amnesty indicating that torture and other ill-treatment by the security forces in Tunisia are widespread. Examples include hanging people from the ceiling, threats of rape, administration of electric shocks, immersion of the head in water, beatings and cigarette burns. Shamefully, the UK government had intervened in the case to try and legitimise its policy of sending terrorism suspects back to their own countries regardless of whether or not they might face these sorts of abuse. You will find the story in the Times, which points out that the judgment, from which there is no appeal, binds all countries of the Council of Europe, including Britain.

This is what we said yesterday: "In the current climate, where states are backsliding on the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, this unanimous ruling of the European Court of Human Rights is a welcome landmark. It reaffirms that the measures that states take to protect us all from the threat of terrorism must respect human rights and the rule of law.

 

Speaking of international human rights law getting a boost and, indeed, of my summer holidays Cuba yesterday signed two legally binding human rights agreements at the UN in New York, committing it to allowing freedom of expression and association, and the right to travel. Enjoying my right to travel, I visited Cuba some years ago, and travelled extensively when I was there. An unforgettable experience.

Coming just days after Raul Castro was sworn in as the new president, some see a shift in human rights policy by Cuba but Amnesty has pointed out that it will only be meaningful if matched by change in Cuba's policies of intimidation and arbitrary arrests of political dissidents. Some 58 journalists, members of unofficial political groups and political dissidents are held in prisons across Cuba because of their peaceful political activities. All have been adopted by Amnesty International as 'prisoners of conscience'.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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