5 powerful anti-torture campaigns

Throughout the years, we have been moved by some powerful anti-torture campaigns seeking to highlight the horrors of torture and its devastating impact on the victims and their families. With less than two months to 26 June, which is also the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we are in campaign mode and saw it fit to share some of the most effective campaigns from the anti-torture movement.

As some of the campaigns on our list show, powerful can also be controversial.

Sounds from torture – Amnesty International Portugal

First up is this campaign from Amnesty International Portugal. As the name suggests, the campaign from last year was built around sounds of torture. At the center of the campaign is a drum set made up of objects used in torture methods. Created by artists and musicians, the drum set was on display around the country, creating awareness about different torture methods and amplifying the pain sounds to make everyone listen.

For those interested, you can still test each instrument on the campaign website – just prepare yourselves for some terrifying sounds.

Visit the campaign here.

“Torture a man and he’ll say anything” – Amnesty International Belgium

This satirical campaign, also from 2014, was controversial for various reasons. The use of brutal imagery of famous people quickly got the internet talking, but the campaign suffered a blow when it was revealed that Amnesty used images of its subjects without permission.

'Torture a man and he’ll say anything' by Amnesty International Belgium

Campaign by Amnesty International Belgium

Controversial or not, the campaign certainly had the shock factor that many other campaigns can only dream of. One of the images showed a beaten up Iggy Pop together with the quote “Justin Bieber is the future of Rock and Roll”, and followed by: “Torture a man and he’ll say anything. Torture is not just inhumane, it’s ineffective. Stop it”. The message and image are very powerful together and address a sad reality – that most people believe torture works.

“Torturer Wanted” – Freedom from Torture

In 2012, Freedom from Torture, an IRCT member in the UK, placed a series of mock advertisements in The Guardian and the Independent. The aim was to create awareness and get people to think about torture in a different way – an objective that seemed to work.

Right in the middle, between the usual job suspects, job seekers could read the ad for a “Torturer”, which offered an annual salary of between £16,000 and £21,000.

The ad then read: “The government of a Middle Eastern state is recruiting a senior torturer to work in a well-equipped prison. Our ideal candidate would be prepared to inflict extreme pain and suffering. Familiarity with dental and medical equipment and knowledge of human anatomy is required…” (to read the full ad, click here).

The reality portrayed by the campaign was a surprise to the general public. The reality is, torture – and torturers – exist and is a common practice around the world. Lack of awareness about it impedes the work done by torture rehabilitation organisations like Freedom from Torture. The campaign received plenty of attention and support from the media, other NGOs and on social media.

“Fighting Impunity” – International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)

Unlike some of the other campaigns on this list, last year’s “Fighting Impunity” campaign by the IRCT used more traditional tactics to raise awareness about torture and impunity.

Culminating on 26 June, which is the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the campaign sought to mobilise IRCT members and other torture rehabilitation organisations around the world, and engage with the general public on social media.

'No Impunity' poster by IRCT

‘No Impunity’ by IRCT

The campaign depicted four archetypical torturers making the “shhh” finger gesture for quiet. The images were accompanied by the message: “Those who tortured you to speak now want you silent”.

110 organisations all over the world joined the campaign to call for the end to impunity, organising their own events, and thousands of people and NGOs showed their support on social media.

You can read more about the campaign here.

Getting Away With Torture – Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has for many years been a strong opponent of torture and other ill-treatment of numerous detainees in US custody at the Guantanamo detention camp.

In its latest efforts to bring those responsible to justice, HRW recently released a petition calling on the Obama administration to order a full criminal investigation into torture and other serious abuses at Guantanamo Bay.

In the petition, HRW says that despite overwhelming evidence of torture and other ill-treatment of numerous detainees in US custody after 9/11, the US government has not held a single senior official accountable.

Whether the HRW petition will amount to any significant changes, it serves as an important tool to pressure the US Government and ensure that what happened at Guantanamo will not be forgotten or swept under the carpet.

The campaign is still ongoing and you can sign the petition here.

For other not-for-profit and human rights campaigns, including anti-torture initiatives, we recommend that you visit the brilliant ‘resource for all things in the world of non-profit and social messaging’ website www.osocio.org

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