International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Geneva, 26 June 2014
Victims of torture continue to be ignored, silenced, abandoned or re-victimized. Impunity and insufficient protection measures for victims stand in the way of a torture free world. On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, a group of UN human rights experts* reflect on how the world would look if accountability and the rule of law were strengthened to stamp out and prevent torture.
“Imagine a world where torture is not condoned and those individuals who perpetrate torture are promptly brought to justice through the full force of the rule of law. Indeed, this should not require a stretch of the imagination. States are, and have long been, obligated by international law to investigate, prosecute and punish all acts of torture and ill-treatment,” said the Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez.
Claudio Grossman, Chair of the Committee against Torture, noted that 30 years had passed since the United Nations Convention against Torture entered into force and unequivocally held that torture is prohibited under all circumstances, without exception.
However, torture continues on a world-wide scale.
In some countries it is a systematic practice; in others there are isolated incidents. The main perpetrators may be officials or outlawed groups, gangs or individuals that torture with the explicit or tacit consent of the State.
“A world without torture will be achievable when prosecutors and judges refuse to rely on coerced confessions and insist on investigating acts of torture and prosecuting those responsible for them,” Grossman said. He added that, “in 2012, the Committee issued a landmark General Comment, elaborating on the right to ensure that victims of an act of torture obtain redress and have an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible.”
To mark the 30th anniversary of the Convention against Torture, a group of States has initiated a ten-year global initiative for the universal ratification and implementation of the Convention. “This is an ambitious undertaking and this day, 26 June, commemorates the plight of victims and reminds us of the long road ahead,” Grossman added.
The relentless and indiscriminate targeting of individuals in the name of counter-terrorism, national security, in the health-care context and States’ irregular migration policies remind us that we are far from realizing the goal of a world free of torture, the experts said.
“A world where there are no victims of torture would be a world where we can trust the police and intelligence agencies to do their jobs and prevent crime without resorting to violence,” said Malcolm Evans, Chair of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture.
Proper and effective documentation of torture requires a multi-layered approach by all responsible authorities – law enforcement, doctors and forensic specialists, lawyers and the judiciary, he said.
Survivors of torture, who are courageous enough to speak out about their physical traumatization and psychological ordeal, need empowerment and institutional support to so their stories can be heard, without fear of reprisals.
“We are working towards a world where victims are assisted from a holistic perspective and their inherent dignity is restored as they obtain justice and access to long-term rehabilitation and redress,” said Morad El Shazly, Chair of the UN Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Torture.
The experts expressed the hope that torture will be completely eradicated one day, stressing that in order to achieve this, “we must work together to end impunity for perpetrators and to provide effective redress for the victims of torture and ill-treatment who must not be left to suffer alone for one more day.
(*) The joint statement was issued by the UN Committee against Torture, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.
Every year, the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture supports hundreds of such centres as they give humanitarian, medical and legal assistance to thousands of victims and their relatives.
Read about the work of the Fund here:
For more information:
Committee against Torture: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/index.htm
Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/OPCAT/Pages/OPCATIndex.aspx
Special Rapporteur on Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx
For more information about the #TortureFreeWorld campaign: http://antitorture.org/torture-free-world-campaign/
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