“We Cannot Acquiesce on Impunity,” Sir Nigel Rodley Tells CVT | The Center for Victims of Torture

“We Cannot Acquiesce on Impunity,” Sir Nigel Rodley Tells CVT

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Shown are Curt Goering, CVT executive director, and Sir Nigel Rodley. Photo by Tom Baker/Manitou Photos

One of the foremost experts on human rights and international law, Sir Nigel Rodley KBE Ph.D., visited the Center for Victims of Torture headquarters in St. Paul last week to speak with staff, volunteers and board members. Sir Nigel was in the Twin Cities to serve as keynote speaker at an event celebrating the distinguished career and international human rights work of David Weissbrodt, a former board member and long-time supporter of CVT.

Dr. Rodley’s career has included roles as Special Rapporteur on Torture of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Member of the UN Human Rights Committee and President of the International Commission of Jurists. Over an informal lunch, he spoke about how his work in human rights law has woven in and out of the rehabilitation movement.

Dr. Rodley started at Amnesty International in 1973 as they launched their first campaign against torture. He noted that this experience showed him how much a single organization could do to draw worldwide attention to an issue. This campaign, he said, led directly to the establishment of an international standard: the UN Convention Against Torture.

Dr. Rodley stated his feeling that rehabilitation for torture survivors must be accompanied by redress, and he discussed his work over many years to ensure that both missions remain at the forefront of the anti-torture movement. He noted that when the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture was established, there was discussion that the work being done by the movement was supposed to be stopping torture – at the time, the new fund was seen as “displaying our failure.” During his years as UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, he worked to see that the Voluntary Fund was maintained for rehabilitation as well as redress.

When asked about trends he sees in accountability, Dr. Rodley said it’s very difficult to witness situations when a leader in the anti-torture movement like the U.S. used torture itself, then stopped, but now doesn’t hold leaders accountable. He said this is a transition phase: “What leads to eventual action for justice is demand.”

Dr. Rodley said it will take time to recover from the U.S. use of torture in interrogations post-9/11, but underscored the importance of the immediate reaction from civil society and politicians after the secret torture program was leaked. He urged continued work on accountability, saying, “We cannot acquiesce on impunity.”

In 1998, Dr. Rodley was knighted in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for his work in Human Rights and International Law. He is a Professor of Law at the University of Essex. Read his biography here.


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