Sunday, 17 January 2021

UN in your language

The use of torture is still widespread

Bengali refugee sheltered in India, victim of brutality, 1971. Photo Raghu Rai 2.0 Generic CC BY NC ND 2.0

26 June 2017 - Torture is any act that intentionally inflicts severe pain or suffering – physical or mental – for a specific purpose. This could be to obtain information, a confession, to put pressure on a third person or as punishment. Today, when there is much discussion of the need for security, it is especially important to remember that no exceptional circumstances ever justify torture.

 “Jana was 10 years old when she was arrested by the Syrian army in Darra in order to pressure her father to turn himself in. She was arrested along with many other boys and girls, the youngest five years old and the oldest only 11,” says Reem, a psychosocial counselor for the Center of Victims of Torture (CVT) in Jordan.

“Jana [not her real name] told me she and the other children were kept in complete darkness in an underground dungeon for 22 days. The children were beaten by four soldiers using guns and hoses, and fed only one boiled egg per day. The water they were given to drink was filthy. Jana saw a boy of about seven tortured until he died – and then his body was left to decompose. The smell of his rotting body was another form of torture for the rest of the imprisoned children.”

The story of Jana is regrettably not the only one of its kind. The 26th of June marks the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, which aims to support the hundreds of thousands victims of torture and create awareness of the continuing violations of human rights.

 “Despite its absolute prohibition under international law, the use of torture is still widespread. Every day, hundreds of thousands of people in every region of the world continue to be subjected to severe pain or suffering, intimidation or coercion with the purpose of extracting information, silencing opinions and stifling protests; and to discrimination and punishment for what they believe, are suspected of or, simply, for who they or their families are,” writes Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein  in  From Horror to Healing: A Life-Saving Journey support by the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.

Every year, the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, managed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), helps all torture victims and their families to reclaim their lives. In 2015, it assisted more than 57,000 men, women and children in over 80 countries.

"Torture destroys lives and is one of the most brutal human rights violations,” said Jens Modvig, who chairs the UN Committee against Torture. “States should be reminded that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever may be invoked to justify acts of torture. The absolute character of the prohibition against torture applies in any case, including in the context of fighting terrorism.”

On this international day we stand together in support of victims of torture, and reaffirm our commitment to end the practice. Join us, and tweet #EndTorture today.

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