Yves Berthelot: General Outline of OMCT’s Campaign
Madame Sandrine Salerno, Mayor of Geneva, and I are happy to welcome you to this ceremony organized by the City of Geneva and OMCT. Thank you, Madame Mayor, for your commitment, and that of the City of Geneva, to the fight against torture.
We are honored to welcome Mr. Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Prize. Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, for having given your moral support to the fight against torture for many years and for donating your time and lending your prestige to OMCT for the past three years.
Mrs. Ruth Dreyfus, former Federal Councilor,
Mr. Yves Flückiger, Vice-Rector of the University of Geneva,
Mr. Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
This ceremony marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of OMCT, as well as the launching of an international campaign to remind governments and the citizens of the world of the absolution prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.
A twenty-fifth anniversary is an occasion for celebrating a project born of the will and commitment of a few that has become a reality through the support of many. It is therefore the time for thanks, thanks which I would like to extend on behalf of all those who OMCT, by its actions, have sustained morally, delivered from torture, and helped to return to a normal life.
I think first of the founders, the people around Pierre de SENARCLENS who, naturally, became the first president of OMCT; of Elisabeth DECREY-WARNER, who succeeded Pierre de SENARCLENS; of Olivier MACH, the third president; and of Jean-François LABARTHES, François de VARGAS, Denis von der WEID and Adrien-Claude ZOLLER, and, of course, Eric SOTTAS, who became OMCT’s first and only Secretary-General.
I thank the 48 local organisations against torture that first came together in 1985 in the SOS-Torture Network. Over the years, that number rose to 297 organisations in more than 97 countries. They are what makes OMCT unique, capable of at the same time of supporting victims and to sense the evolution of the causes of violence, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. They are represented today by the members of the Executive Council of OMCT. The Network is comprised of courageous men and women. I do not use the word “courageous” idly: Floribert CHEBEYA, Executive Secretary of Voix des sans voix pour les droits de l’homme and member of our General Assembly, paid with his life three weeks ago for his involvement in the fight against corruption and violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Before him, several members of the Network were threatened, attacked and killed.
OMCT owes its existence to the will of its founders, the courage of its members, and the support of its sponsors. Countries, cantons, cities and foundations have expressed their confidence by enabling OMCT to function. Individuals, generous with their time and money, have allowed it to be independent. To one and all, we express our gratitude.
Finally, I would like to thank the staff of OMCT for their work and, even more, for their commitment. Today is their celebration.
The campaign which we launch today is a response to the observation reported by the organisations of the SOS-Torture Network and shared by many human rights defenders, be they members of NGOs, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, or journalists seeking the truth: torture is becoming more widely practiced, more commonplace, and public opinion is not only undisturbed, but indeed tolerates it.
Of course everyone is against torture, but…. And this “but” is serious: but we must fight terrorism, but development must come first, but the cultural differences.
The fight against terrorism – and I would add to that the fight against clandestine immigration – has cost the countries that call themselves human rights defenders some of their moral authority and weakened that which is the common bond of humanity: an absolute belief in the dignity of man.
Giving priority to development has caused numerous violations of economic, social and cultural rights. Those who protest having been thrown off their land, out of their homes and out of their jobs are imprisoned, mistreated and sometimes disappeared. OMCT believes that today more people are mistreated or tortured in order to intimidate them than to make them talk.
As for cultural differences: they are a pretext which no victim of torture would understand.
For these reasons, we decided to launch this campaign. I am extremely grateful to Kofi ANNAN for having supported the idea of a manifesto reminding everyone of the absolute prohibition of torture, and for having written to several of his Nobel laureate friends to urge them to join him in signing it. This manifesto will be the basic document for the campaign, which Aminata DIEYE will tell you about, and will be open for signature. I hope that you will all add your names.