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Working Together for the Ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture
Volume 22 Number 1
Friday, 15 January 2010 11:54

Welcome remarks Netherlands Ambassador Robert G. Brinks
delivered during the meeting

February 26, 2008, Dusit Hotel, Makati

I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to welcome you all here today at the occasion of the kick-off of the advocacy campaign to promote the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, carried out by the Philippine United Against Torture Coalition under the leadership of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines. I am honoured that the Netherlands Embassy is associated with this campaign aimed at a more than worthy cause.

We support this campaign, because we strongly believe in the value of respecting human rights which is reflected in our own human rights policy in the Netherlands; we support this campaign because it’s an important instrument of our foreign policy. “A life of human dignity for all”. That is the title of the most recent Dutch human rights strategy for foreign policy. Our goal is comprehensive and ambitious: to protect and promote human rights throughout the world. This means that we make human rights an integral part of our relations with other countries, of our efforts at EU level and of our actions in multilateral fora. There are four key themes on which we in the Netherlands focus, using our resources where they are most needed: universality; human rights, peace and security; the indivisibility of human rights; the voice of human rights; and universality.

Obviously, universality is the basic principle underlying the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One of the most fundamental of human rights, relevant to everyone on the planet, is the protection of life and the person, guaranteeing physical integrity. In this connection, torture constitutes an extremely serious violation of this right and the eradication of torture is therefore something we in the Netherlands and many in the Philippines strive for worldwide and which you, the organizers of this conference are focussing on in the Philippines.
As we are aware, the OPCAT establishes a system of regular visits to places of detention by independent expert bodies, in order to prevent torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The OPCAT not only creates a new international body, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention, but also requires each State Party to have its own complementary “national preventive mechanism”. The OPCAT entered into force on the 22 June, 2006, and some countries, including the Netherlands (I have to say) still need to finalize the ratification procedure of the treaty.

In support of its candidacy for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, the Government of the Philippines pledged to “strengthen domestic support for the ratification of the OPCAT”. In 2006, the Presidential Human Rights Committee adopted a resolution in favour of ratification. This is promising and we hope that 2008 will turn out to be the year in which the Philippines starts the ratification process of the OPCAT. In many ways, the Philippines has played a leading role in the promotion of human rights in the ASEAN region. Most recently the Philippine government demonstrated that in the context of the ASEAN Summits in Cebu and Singapore, when important decisions were made to establish the ASEAN Human Rights Commission and to enshrine human rights in the ASEAN Charter. Whilst there is nothing which prevents authorities in the Philippines to act in conformity with the provisions of the Optional Protocol before ratifying it, swift ratification of the OPCAT and the finalization of a national anti-torture law by the end of this or the next session of parliament would not only set an example in the region, but would also send a strong and positive signal to both the Philippine society and the international community.

That is why, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to commend the Philippine United Against Torture Coalition and the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines for their efforts to prevent torture and ill-treatments and wish them well in the advocacy campaign, which we support wholeheartedly.

And on that note, I once again wish you all a very warm welcome and successful deliberations. Mabuhay!

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