United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on countries to provide concrete support for victims of torture and prove their commitment to fighting a cruel and dehumanizing practice that remains pervasive.
In his message for the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, observed on 26 June, Mr. Ban noted that every day, women, men and children are tortured or ill-treated with the intention of destroying their sense of dignity and human worth.
“In some cases, this is part of a deliberate state policy of instilling fear and intimidating its population,” he said. “In too many countries, people’s legitimate demands for freedom and human rights are met with brutal repression. Even when regimes change, torture often persists and a culture of impunity remains.”
He noted the obligation of States not only to prevent torture but to provide all torture victims with effective and prompt redress, compensation and appropriate social, psychological, medical and other forms of rehabilitation.
The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, created in 1981, supports hundreds of organizations and entities that provide assistance to victims of torture and their family members in all regions of the world.
Noting that the Fund has seen a significant decrease in contributions over the past two years, Mr. Ban strongly encouraged States to reverse this trend, despite current global financial uncertainty.
“By concretely supporting victims of torture, the international community will prove its unequivocal determination and commitment to fight torture and impunity,” he stated.
The Board of Trustees of the Fund, as well as the UN Committee against Torture, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment issued a joint statement in which they stressed that victims of torture must not face reprisals for seeking redress through the UN.
They noted that every year, hundreds of rehabilitation centres, small and large, supported by the Fund, provide indispensable humanitarian, medical and legal assistance to thousands of victims of torture and their family members.
“Many of those victims and actors who enable us to do our work by providing invaluable expertise and by sharing the sufferings they have endured, experience intimidation and reprisals,” they said.
They also stressed that reprisals against people who cooperate with the UN mechanisms in protecting and advancing human rights are absolutely unacceptable and are in violation of international law and States’ legal obligations.
There must be an effective means of ensuring that reprisals do not occur, and if they do, the individuals involved and the State must be held accountable, they added.
“It is imperative that States translate their commitment to the fight against torture with measures that guarantee that victims and human rights advocates engaging with the United Nations mechanisms against torture will not be subjected to reprisals and re-victimization,” they stated.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, marked the Day with a call on all States to live up to the pledges they have made to prevent, prosecute and punish the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
“As the Convention Against Torture states unequivocally, the use of torture is illegal, under any circumstances, with no exceptions,” she said in a statement. “I call on all those States that have still not introduced laws that criminalise torture to do so urgently, and all those that already have such legislation to redouble their efforts to ensure it is fully implemented.”
She also stressed the need for a more concerted effort to provide victims and their families with the necessary support and reparations “to alleviate, at least slightly, the profound and lasting damage that has been done to them.”