Annual Report 2022

A message from our president

Building the foundations for a better world

Hina Jilani - President of the OMCT

After years of Covid-19, surges of peaceful protest and dissent were violently repressed across the world. To add to this chaos, we are sleepwalking into a global climate crisis. All this together with a war in Europe shapes ‘a new normal’ that divides countries into camps or zones of influence. The world seems to be moving from one crisis to another.

We know how dangerous an emergency rhetoric can be for our societies, for our rule of law, for democracy. We know the dangers of the ‘us against them’ narrative for the freedom from torture. In this global environment, support and respect for human rights must remain the basis for unity and peace. In our polarized societies, human rights are the last bastion against unacceptable acts like torture. They are the foundations for a future based on the respect for human dignity.

Our network of human rights defenders is present across the world and responds in real-time to human rights emergencies. Beyond Good and Evil, East and West, political parties and armies, our defenders take a stand for the people. They fight for our survival, our wellbeing, and our opportunities. They are pillars in a crumbling world. Together, we help survivors access justice and rebuild their lives. We work for better institutions and monitoring mechanisms to prevent abuses. We build a brighter future.

Our network changes the world every day

When peaceful protesters were shot by the police in Chad, our partners in the country sent us the live information we needed to alert international institutions. We invited them to Geneva to raise awareness on the issue in the UN Committee against Torture. Beyond political parties fighting for power, what mattered to us were the victims and their families. Together we made sure that the Chadian authorities received the international pressure needed to stop their bloody repression and initiate a process of reparations.

Documentation work is key to justice. Defenders support us in gathering the necessary data to prove human rights abuses. In 2022, the OMCT’s partner – the Libyan Anti-Torture Network – helped us compile a report on the killing of 118 migrants in indiscriminate attacks, trafficking hubs, and detention facilities. These victims and their relatives are now one step closer to getting justice.

Last year, our  Urgent Assistance Fund for Victims of Torture supported 23 victims and 60 of their family members in 11 countries in their legal, social, medical, or psychological rehabilitation. Our Tunisian program Sanad accompanies victims of torture in their recovery via a multidisciplinary approach. 125 victims of torture have benefitted from this support last year. Members of our global network have helped us identify and support these survivors in the best way we could. Without them, none of this would have been possible.

For their human rights work in 2022, 217 defenders were detained in 36 countries. In Afghanistan or in Iran, those who stood up for women and minorities faced death threats. We helped them get visas so that they could safely continue to work from abroad, and they did. Like them, many defenders worldwide are forced into exile. We make sure that they remain safe wherever they are, and free to keep advocating for the rights of those who can’t speak up.

We must all be human rights defenders

But the importance of human rights extends beyond war zones and authoritarian regimes. Rights are the cement of our societies. When they are denied, divisions are created, wounds inflicted, and social trust lost. Humanity as a whole suffers as a result. Because each one of us is impacted by abuses on the rights of others, each one of us should be compelled to act for human rights.

As we hear about war crimes, police abuses and State violence worldwide, we may feel powerless. Perpetrators feed on this despair. Their only hope is that we will get tired of hearing about human rights violations in foreign countries or close to home, that we will lose interest in the harsh realities of migrants or detainees, whose lives are so far from ours, that we will turn a blind eye on the suffering of others.

If we believe a better world is possible, we must act for it. We must keep the spotlight on human rights abuses. We must stand up to those who perpetrate them. We must choose to defend the most vulnerable. Each at our own level, we must be human rights defenders.

Hina Jilani
OMCT President