Today marks the UN International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture. It provides us with an opportunity to honour the victims and survivors of torture, and for us all, survivors of torture and their allies, to stand in solidarity.
Despite its absolute prohibition torture continues to be a global phenomenon: both physical and psychological torture. Torture is today prevalent in over half the world’s countries. This is a disgrace in the twenty-first century.
Its victims are men, women – often targeted by rape and other sexual torture, and also, children. Torture victims are disproportionately from marginalized groups, in particular the poor, but also women and minority groups.
The aim of torture is to exert power, to punish, create fear and to destroy trust.
The aim of torture is to break down the victim’s personality and resilience. It is first and foremost a means of instilling fear in society at large. Torture is not only destructive at the individual and family level, but also a crucial obstacle to economic and social development for whole societies.
The effects of torture continue long after the actual act has happened. And rehabilitation is crucial – for the individual, their family and their society. The purpose of rehabilitation is to empower the torture survivor to resume as full a life as possible. Rebuilding the life of someone whose dignity has been destroyed takes time and as a result long-term material, medical, psychological and social support is needed.
It is important to stress that rehabilitation is possible. And it works.
The positive impact of rehabilitation efforts is often far-reaching. It goes beyond the impact on the individual to affect communities and society at large and plays a key role in promoting democracy, co-existence, and respect for human rights.
Rehabilitation is also a right. Article 14 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture expressly provides that States should make compensation an enforceable right, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible. It adds a fundamental element to the fight against torture by explicitly recognising that rehabilitation has to form part of the response to torture.
Each year over 100,000 survivors of torture receive treatment from torture rehabilitation centres all over the world. But there are many more who go without the rehabilitation that is their need and their right. Together, we must work to increase our reach in order to bring healing to the greater numbers who suffer, often in silence.A film from member centre Freedom From Torture in cooperation with the UK Survivors Speak OUT Network
And together on this UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we affirm the right of survivors of torture to rehabilitation. We take the opportunity to remind governments all over the world to take seriously their responsibilities to ensure as full a rehabilitation as possible from this most horrendous form of abuse.
We remind the world that rehabilitation is a right. We remind the world that rehabilitation works.
For the Global Reading in Spanish, French or Arabic, click here.A film from partner organisation OMCT on 26 June