International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

26 June, 2015

Today is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture; a day of solidarity for those who have endured the unimaginable, subjected to gross violation of their rights and a reminder of our obligation not only to prevent torture, but also to provide its victims with effective and prompt redress and rehabilitation.

Strategies for tackling torture and improving prevention

Monday 30 March – Wednesday 1 April 2015 (WP1382)

The United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture provides an annual opportunity to reflect on how far we have come in the fight to end torture, but also how much remains to be done to prevent this gross violation of human rights.

The 26th June was selected by the United Nations General Assembly for two reasons. The first is because it marks the day, in 1945, on which the United Nations Charter was signed, and the very first international instrument urging UN member states to protect human rights came into being, laying down the foundations of the universal declaration of human rights, created three years later.

The second is that it commemorates 26th June in 1987, when the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment came into effect. The treaty currently has 158 state parties. Globally, there is a much greater awareness of the need to enact laws, policies and regulations to monitor places of detention and thus prevent torture.

However there is still a long way to go; only 78 countries are party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, which sought to establish an international inspection system for places of detention to prevent torture from occurring.

Furthermore, in many places, laws are not adequate or properly implemented, and a culture of impunity prevails. Indeed, Amnesty International reported torture or ill-treatment in a staggering four-fifths of the countries covered in their Annual Report last year.

Too many victims of torture are forced to deal with their trauma in silence, as the right to effective remedy, including rehabilitation, is yet to become a reality, particularly in the context of conflict and oppressive regimes where torture is all too prevalent.

The international community has come to recognise that combatting torture requires a holistic approach, which needs the cooperation of government, police and security forces, NGOs and civil society. A good deal of the violence stems not from lack of laws, but from a culture which accepts torture as a necessary evil for gaining information or confessions to ‘solve’ crimes or protect the population at large. However, torture always produces tainted information for the simple reason that it comes from someone who is trying to avoid unbearable suffering.

Torture disproportionately affects the most vulnerable and marginalised people: minority groups, the imprisoned, the politically powerless and the economically underprivileged. Yet the practice of torture harms us all; it denies our common humanity and so undermines our human rights. In 2015, we must take a renewed effort to stamp out torture once and for all.

Today, Wilton Park reflects on the work that must be done to put an end to torture and thus safeguard human rights for all. In March 2015, we held an event on Strategies for tackling torture and improving prevention, which brought together policy makers, parliamentarians, experts from international and regional human rights bodies, and civil society for a strategic brainstorm on how to combat torture and assist its victims, beyond just improving the legal framework.

Moving forwards, we are planning a series of four regional workshops in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East to forge strategies for anti-torture programmes tailored to regional needs and challenges. The first of these will be held in Marrakech, Morocco in December, in partnership with the Convention against Torture Initiative.

There is a long road ahead, but we will continue to work with our partners for the elimination of torture, and thus the reaffirmation of our basic human rights, worldwide.

Further information

Conference: Strategies for tackling torture and improving prevention

Podcast: Torture

 

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