European Union Urges Anti-Torture Convention Signing

The European Union on Monday urged all nations to sign a global convention against torture, calling the practice "cruel, inhuman and degrading" not only to victims but to those who inflict such treatment on people.

"No culture of impunity is acceptable," the 25-nation bloc warned in a statement coinciding with observances of the United Nations' ninth annual International Day to Support the Victims of Torture.

"The EU resolves to continue and intensify its own efforts to secure a world free from torture," it said.

The EU also said it condemned any attempt by states or public officials to legalize or acquiesce in such treatment "under any circumstances, including on grounds of national security."

The communique did not mention the alleged existence of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe where terror suspects reportedly were held, but the issue — along with the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — has been of great concern to many European governments.

Senior EU leaders pressed President Bush during last week's EU-U.S. summit in Vienna to shut down Guantanamo and redouble efforts to make sure that human rights are not sacrificed in the war on terror.

Bush administration officials have said the U.S. uses legal interrogation techniques — not torture — to gain information that could head off terror attacks.

"Torture is not only a tragedy for the victims — the direct and the indirect victims," the EU said. "Torture is also degrading and injuring to the minds of those who perpetrate torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to societies, which tolerate such outrage."

Austria, which is wrapping up its six-month EU presidency and issued the statement, reaffirmed the EU's campaign to eradicate torture around the world.

Torture and other degrading treatment is prohibited, "and all states must ensure that they do not resort to these barbaric practices," the EU said, urging governments to sign and ratify the International Convention Against Torture.

"Scrutiny and openness are essential factors in combating the insidious practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," the EU said.