Nairobi Conference Features International Military Calls to Abandon Torture in Counterterrorism Strategies
Nairobi – This week in Nairobi, Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke, Senegalese General Lamine Cisse (Ret.) and Canadian General Rayment Henault (Ret.) urged law enforcement and intelligence officials from seven East African nations to implement antiterrorism policies that protect human rights. Cisse and Henault are members of an international group of retired military officers working with Human Rights First to stop the use of torture around the globe.
This week’s remarks came during a counterterrorism conference hosted in Nairobi by the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and the Security Sector Program of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
“The threat of terror around the world – as evidenced by the recent Westgate mall attack here in Nairobi – warrants strong counterterrorism strategies that adhere to the rule of law and protect human rights,” said Stahnke. “This gathering presented an opportunity for us to discuss smart counterterrorism strategies and how East African nations might implement these best practices to combat ongoing and very serious threats.”
“It was a privilege to attend this gathering and reinforce the degree to which we reject the use of all inappropriate, harmful, destructive and illegal practices like torture, and the abuse of detainees in all its forms. Our message, which strongly emphasized the observance of the Rule of Law and all relevant legal instruments and conventions in the fight against terrorism, was well-received by the participants of the workshop and generated very useful and productive discussion,” said General Henault, former chief of defense staff of the Canadian Armed Forces and chairman of the NATO Military Committee.
“Terrorism is now a serious problem across Africa. To combat it, we must have a comprehensive strategy which includes the protection of human rights. Torture has no place in that effort,” added General Cisse, former minister of interior and chief of staff of the Senegalese Armed Forces, representative of the U.N. secretary general to West Africa and the Central African Republic.
Stahnke, Cisse and Henault led an open discussion on the strategic value of protecting human rights – in particular the prohibition of torture and ill treatment of detainees – in the fight against terrorism. The retired international military officers stressed that torture is not only immoral and illegal, but also counterproductive in protecting nations against the threat of terror. Based on their extensive experience the generals noted that adhering to the absolute prohibition on torture is an essential element of a smart strategy to combat terrorism. They urged countries in the East African region – and elsewhere – to build capacity to gather intelligence and collect evidence in lawful ways that don’t rely on torture, including training in professional, humane interrogation techniques. They also noted that the international community should assist in efforts to establish such policies globally.
Conference co-host IGAD is an international sub-regional organization of East African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti and Somalia). Co-host GCTF is an informal grouping of 29 countries and the European Union working together to reduce the vulnerability of people everywhere to terrorism by effectively preventing, combating, and prosecuting terrorist acts and countering incitement and recruitment to terrorism. It provides a venue for national counterterrorism officials and practitioners to meet with their counterparts from key countries in different regions to share their experiences, expertise, strategies, capacity needs, and capacity-building programs. It prioritizes civilian capacity building in areas such as rule of law, border management, and countering violent extremism.