7 Human Rights Days Significant to the Anti-Torture Movement

Are you a human rights activist at heart whose New Year’s resolution is to voice your support for the movement, but never know when to do so? We have put together a list of significant human rights days worth adding to your 2015 calendar.

Throughout the year there are several days promoting human rights, many of which pay tribute to torture victims and those who have sacrificed their life fighting for justice. We have picked seven days that are all important milestones in the anti-torture movement.

(courtesy of Zack Lee, used via Flickr creative commons licence)

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” (courtesy of Zack Lee, used via Flickr creative commons licence).

24 March – International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims

In 2010 when the United Nations General Assembly chose 24 March as the day to honour the victims of gross and systematic human rights violations, the assembly had one particular person in mind. El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero was assassinated on 24 March 1980 after speaking out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture. Like so many others, he lost his life defending the principles of protecting lives, promoting human dignity and opposition to all forms of violence.

On this day, the world pays tribute to those who have devoted their lives to, and lost their lives in, the struggle to promote and protect human rights for all.

7 April – Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Rwanda Genocide

On numbers and timescale alone, the 1994 Rwandan genocide remains the largest of modern times. In 100 days, over 800,000 people were killed for being part of a different ethnic community. Hundreds of thousands civilians were also tortured and raped as the largest ethnic group, the Hutus repeatedly and mercilessly attacked the Tutsi population.

The mass killings began on 7 April, which is also the day that has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the Day of Remembrance of the many victims.

The aim with this day is to honour the many victims and to ensure that the world will never let history repeat itself.

4 June – International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression

On 19 August 1982, at its emergency special session on the question of Palestine, the United Nations General Assembly, decided to commemorate 4 June of each year as the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression.

The purpose of 4 June is to acknowledge the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse.

20 June – World Refugee Day

For the first time since the Second World War, the global refugee figure has passed 50 million, the majority of whom live in developing countries.

Health professionals and researchers commonly estimate that between 4-35% of refugees worldwide have been subjected to torture.

For years, many countries and regions have been holding their own Refugee Days and even Weeks. One of the most widespread is Africa Refugee Day, which is celebrated on 20 June in several countries. In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly decided that this day would also be celebrated as World Refugee Day.

26 – June International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

Since the first 26 June celebrations in 1998, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture has undoubtedly become the most significant day for the anti-torture movement.

Torture is a crime under international law, but despite freedom from it holding the status as one of the few universally recognised human rights, torture is still widely practised. The consequences reach far beyond immediate pain, destroying the lives of many victims and their families. Yet, too often, the perpetrators are not brought to justice, resulting in more pain and suffering for the victims.

26 June helps us remind the world and ourselves that torture is serious crime and a human rights violation which must be investigated, prosecuted and punished. Every year, the IRCT marks 26 June with a host of events, making it the world’s largest anti-torture campaign.

25 November – International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Women’s activists have marked 25 November as a day against violence since 1981. This date came from the brutal assassination in 1960 of the three Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic, on orders of Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961).

Globally, violence against women remains rampant, with up to 35 per cent of women having experienced some form of violence.

Women are often more vulnerable to violence and discrimination than men and sexual abuse such as rape becomes a weapon of war in armed conflicts. 25 November not only commemorates the Mirabal sisters, but also serves as a reminder to all of us that it is time to end this global pandemic of violence against women.

10 December – Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day is celebrated by the international community every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

10 December is a key day for organisations like the IRCT that use the day to cast a light on important human rights issues, including torture, through various events such high-level political conferences and cultural events and exhibitions.


Have any day to add to the list? Write us a comment.


For a full list of official UN days click on this link.


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  1. #1 by dars0357 on 08/01/2015 - 02:00

    Hi, I am Darwin Mendiola of the Medical Action Group (MAG), a human rights and health NGO which is based in the Philippines.

    MAG has been in the frontline of the anti-torture advocacy in the country. As a human rights organization, it is involved in the campaign and lobby for torture prevention. As a membership based health organization, MAG is providing medical and psychological healthcare services to torture victims and their families. It has in fact pioneered the use of the Istanbul Protocol in the medical documentation of torture cases.

    But prior to my involvement in MAG, I used to work with the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), a regional human rights group working directly on the issue of enforced disappearance in Asia and in the world.

    I do believe that August 30 which is the UN declared day in commemoration of the “Disappeared Persons’ should be included in your list of Human Rights Days that are significant to the global anti-torture movement.

    Even the UN Committee on Torture recognized that enforced disappearance is a form of torture not only for the fact the disappeared persons are vulnerable to torture but the anguish of their families in their search for their fate and whereabouts constitutes an act of torture.

    It was in 2010 when the UN General Assembly through a resolution declared August 30, the International Day of the Disappeared a few months before the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance took effect in the submission of the 20th ratification by IRAQ.

    If there is an international day in commemoration of the victims
    of extrajudicial killings and summary execution, it should also be included as the enforced disappearance, torture, and killings are not only interconnected but they are considered the egregious forms of human rights violations.

    I just hope you will consider this humble suggestion.
    Thank you!

    -Carpe Diem

    • #2 by IRCT on 10/03/2015 - 11:07

      Hi Darwin, thank you so much for your great suggestion and our apologies for not getting back to you any sooner – sadly, we haven’t been very good at replying to comments lately. Thank you for informing us about 30 August. It is indeed an important human rights day and at some point we would love to include it in a blog. We follow our friends at MAG very closely, but are not so familiar with AFAD and their work. Feel free to send us more information about enforced disappearances in Asia and perhaps we can put a blog together about this. You can always email me at mdy@irct.org Best, Marie

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