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Protest against torture against torture in front of the central jail of Mogdishu, Somalia. Protest against torture against torture in front of the central jail of Mogdishu, Somalia. 

UN: Torturers must not get away with their crimes

Torture is a crime under international law. The United Nations marks International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26 to urge everyone everywhere to support hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have been victims of torture and those who are still tortured today.

By Robin Gomes

The United Nations chief is urging the international community not to allow torturers to get away with their crimes, and systems that allow torture must be dismantled or transformed.  “Let us honour the victims of torture and commit to work to achieve a world where such abuse cannot happen,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a brief message on the occasion of International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture, Saturday.

The UN General Assembly on December 12, 1997 adopted a resolution establishing June 26 as UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The purpose is to totally eradicate torture and effectively implement the Convention against Torture (CAT).   The UN urges all stakeholders including UN member states, civil society and individuals everywhere to unite in support of the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have been victims of torture and those who are still tortured today.

Denial of dignity

“On this International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture,” Guterres said, “human rights defenders and survivors of torture around the world take the opportunity to speak out against this abhorrent denial of human dignity and they act to remember and support its victims.” “Torture diminishes everyone and everything that it touches, including torturers and the systems and states where it occurs.”  “Torturers,” Guterres insisted, “must never be allowed to get away with their crimes, and systems that enable torture should be dismantled or transformed.” 

Justice, rehabilitation, reprisal

The UN chief called for the empowerment of victims and survivors and their families.  They must be assisted to seek justice for their ordeal, the UN chief said calling for the replenishment of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture. “On this International Day, let us honour the victims of torture and commit to work to achieve a world where such abuse cannot happen,” he added.

In a separate message for International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights appealed to all governments to ensure that victims of torture receive the rehabilitation services they need, along with guarantees that those who help them do not suffer reprisals.
Three Human Rights Council-appointed independent experts insisted that “people who have endured the ordeal of torture…have an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation”, including rehabilitation. 

Protection for rights activists

They underscored that the Convention against Torture (CAT) provides for reparations for blatant human rights violations and to restore dignity.  “It is particularly important that governments respect and uphold the right to redress”, they said, adding that authorities should ensure that medical and other professionals who treat victims of torture, can carry out their work unhindered. 

The independent experts demanded that the same guarantees should also be given to civil society organizations and rights defenders so that they can carry out the vital work of documenting torture and supporting the rehabilitation of victims, the rights experts said. 

The term “rehabilitation” includes adequate medical psychological, social and other relevant specialized treatment. 

The 3 UN experts lamented that cases of reprisals against individuals and groups who help torture victims and cooperate with the UN have increased since 2012. (Source: UN, UNHCHR)

26 June 2021, 14:53