Alert: Torture survivors speak out in our new report on human rights abuses in Ethiopia

HRC46: Protection against torture is losing importance

Oral Statement delivered by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
46th regular session of the Human Rights Council

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Madam President,

The OMCT welcomes the focus of the report by the Special Rapporteur. We are worried by its findings on the lack of cooperation of States. Our network’s recent experience has been very similar. The protection against torture is slowly losing its importance even among allies and terminologies are being altered, as seen in the case of George Floyd whose treatment by the police has been labeled as murder and killing instead of torture to death.

George Floyd’s case is also an illustration of another worrisome trend: the upsurge of extra-custodial use of force. The past years have shown, more than ever, that torture is not just inflicted behind walls but in bright daylight from Chile to Belarus to Hong Kong as a response to public demonstrations or during immigration operations. Law enforcement officials are using crowd control weapons in contravention of the recent UN Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons. The Covid-19 Pandemic has further exacerbated violations of the absolute prohibition of torture. Governments are using the public health emergency as an excuse for violent social control over marginalised communities, including the targeting of human rights defenders.

Moreover, Covid-19 has shed light on already existing human rights crises in detention. Protection against Covid-19 is often illusory as distancing and health care are rarely provided. Furthermore, the risk of torture has significantly increased as monitoring visits are limited. We would like to ask the Special Rapporteur whether he plans on gathering best practices on how to guarantee prisoners’ rights during the pandemic.

Thank you very much.

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