On the eve of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victimsof Torture the principal global civil society coalition against torture recallsthe plight of thousands of victims of torture across the world. It is time fora new commitment to eradicate such practice once and for all.
‘Torture continues to be one of the darkest realities of our times. Itis a horrific and gruesome practice happening around the world, typically cloudedin secrecy and matched with impunity’, said the OMCT Secretary General onthe occasion of the UN Day for Victims of Torture.
Torture breaksthe individuals it is inflicted upon leaving traces for the rest of their livesand very often destroys the very fabric of societies. It corrupts ourinstitutions and legal systems if we leave it - as so often - unaddressed.Ultimately, societies that accept torture will pay a high price in the longerterm. Torture is used today for manypurposes and justified with fighting terrorism, organized crime, delinquency orprotecting democratic principles or stimulating economic growth. It can bepolitical or non-political and occurs in situations of repression but also indemocracies. It is troubling to see in our global work that torture hitstypically those population groups who are often forgotten such as the sociallyvulnerable, marginalized and minority or indigenous populations as well as criminalsuspects.
The OMCT provides throughits global victims fund support for legal, social and medical rehabilitationacross the globe and advocates for effective remedies and reparation for thosewho were subjected to torture. In light of the many crisis around the worldthere is a dramatic mismatch between the needs for support and the resourcesavailable.
‘We have no shortage of international legal standards. But we need to domuch more to translate them into practice so that torture is effectively preventedand not only prohibited on paper. Those who become victims to such treatments shouldbe able to access real remedies and get the assistance they need’, saidGerald Staberock.
In honour of the day forvictims of torture, the OMCT, the leading global civil society network againsttorture, is calling for States to adopt effective legal and policy frameworks thatprevent torture and do provide effective and real life support to victims. Inthe course of the next two days the international secretariat of OMCT withmembers of its global SOS torture network will call for specific steps toeradicate torture in events and campaigns organised in Mexico, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Togo, the Democratic Republic of Congo,Tunisia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Switzerland and the United States. Theseare part of OMCT’s global campaign ‘nothing can justify torture’. This year’scampaign is also associated with the Special Rapporteur on Torture’s campaignfor a ‘torture free world’.
The events inpartnership with OMCT member organizations illustrate the fundamental role thatcivil society plays in defending the rights of those subject to torture. Wehave seen in many parts of the world a wave of restrictions placed on civil societydocumenting and reporting on torture. It is unconceivable that those who takeon the case of torture are subject to harassment, intimidation and in somecases even detention.
‘As wecommemorate the victims of torture we are also reminded of the need to support themany members of the anti-torture movement who are suffering harassment andrepression because of their work. Representative of this is our call for theimmediate release of our General Assembly member Leyla Yunus and her husband,arbitrarily detained in Azerbaijan’ declares the OMCT.
Sadly, we havelearned along the years that torture and impunity are not privy to thedeveloping world but also in democracies with a tradition of the rule of law.The US torture policy with plain impunity is a case in point. In anincreasingly divisive world with an emergence of non-State actors that appearto deny basic principles of humanity such persistent violations of the law anddouble standards gravely undermine the global cause against torture.
This year’s UNanti-torture day takes place in the midst of major migration crises across theworld when refugees are seeking safe havens and a life in dignity. In recent monthswe have seen shocking actions when refugees are sent back to the high seas andwhen States, including in Europe, are denying fundamental protections ofrefugees. In an alarming number of cases, refugees are subjected to conditionsthat amount to cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment or sent back to placeswhere they may risk being faced with torture.
‘Respecting human dignity and ensuring that we are not sending backpeople to torture must remain a non-negotiable baseline if we are not to becomplicit in torture’, recalls Gerald Staberock.
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The OMCT wishes to thank the European Commissionfor its financial support to the OMCT activities on June 26 that are part ofits campaign of “nothing can justify torture under any circumstances”.