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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, 26 June, 2016

Victims of Torture

24 June 2016

Statement by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 

Victims of torture come from many walks of life. They are in all countries. They may be human rights defenders, migrants, journalists, persons with disabilities, indigenous people or members of minority groups or people from the LGBT community.

Children, too, may be tortured – whether to obtain information, or to put pressure on their parents and communities. The work of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture indicates that today the number of children victim of torture is rising. In 2016, 5,279 child and adolescent victims of torture are estimated to be given assistance by organizations funded by the UN Fund, which represents a 35% increase compared to 2015.

In addition, a shockingly high number of child migrants and refugees suffer detention at borders, and may suffer very harsh physical and psychological abuse in detention by agents of the State.

Twenty-nine years ago, the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment became law. Today, it is ratified by 159 States. It prohibits unreservedly the intentional infliction of severe pain, physical or mental, to obtain information, to punish for perceived crimes, or to put pressure on the victim or other parties.

Torture is a severe violation of human rights that can never be justified – even during wartime, or when national security is under threat. Article 14 of the Convention further commits States to ensuring that all victims of torture under their jurisdiction obtain redress, and to the extent possible, rehabilitation.

When States fail to care adequately for these and other victims, the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture steps in to help them obtain rehabilitation and redress. The Fund, which is operated by my Office and this year marks its 35th year of helping victims, has provided over US$ 180 million to more than 630 organizations worldwide.

In 2016 alone the Fund will finance 178 projects with US $7.1 million, helping more than 47,000 victims in over 81 countries regain their dignity.

Every victim matters. Helping the Fund provide specialized rehabilitation to these men, women and children is one very real way that each of us can make a difference. And it is a concrete manifestation of the commitment towards the elimination of torture.