Thank you, Mr.President.
thank you foryour work on shedding light on the often-overlooked issue of psychologicaltorture.
We welcome the mentionin your report of “torturous environments” as the combination of methods,techniques and circumstances deliberately designed to inflict pain or sufferingof sufficient severity to achieve the desired torturous purpose. Would you saythat the systematic vilification and persecution of human rights defenders by Stateauthorities, including through cyber-technologies, may fall under this conceptand be considered as psychological torture?
The OMCT hasregularly been reporting on systematic, State-sponsored campaigns of harassmentand intimidation of HRDs in countries such as Bahrain, Egypt, Guatemala,Honduras, Iran, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Venezuela. Wepositively welcomed the conviction in 2016 of two Colombian Security Serviceagency officials over charges of psychological torture in the case of HRD ClaudiaJulieta Duque. However, we are shocked that this issue is still beingoverlooked and that governments and their officials continue to enjoy completeimpunity in the vast majority of cases.
You mention in yourreport that a routine method of psychological torture is to attack the victims’need for social and emotional contacts.
We would like to drawyour attention on the practice of repeated prison transfers of detainees, inparticular political opponents and HRDs, often hundreds of kilometres fromtheir homes. This punitive practice aims to break the prisoners’ spirit and toisolate them from their families and support networks, leading to severe mentaland emotional suffering, anxiety and depression. This is the case of forinstance Max Bokayev in Kazakhstan but also of Azimjon Askarov in Kyrgyzstan, GermainRukuki in Burundi or Jean-Claude Malitano and Etienne Tandelein in DRC.
Finally, we welcome the recognition that childrenare particularly vulnerable to psychological torture, and that the severitythreshold is lower for children than for adults. However, during several prisonmonitoring visits, we observed that threats and verbal abuse are often seen asa legitimate disciplinary method towards children and we reiterate theimportance to raise awareness towards the intensity and long-lasting traumathat may result from them.