Friday, June 25, 2010

News Release

(For International Day in Support of Victims of Torture - 26 June 2010)

Torture still widespread and impunity prevails, warn four UN expert


GENEVA “Despite a well-built international legal framework, torture

prevails in many regions of the world and is often accompanied by an

alarming degree of impunity,” warned four UN bodies* involved in

preventing torture and helping its victims, on the International Day in

Support of Victims of Torture.

“Torture continues to be widespread and certain practices amounting to

torture as well as to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or

punishment have been reinvigorated, in particular in the context of the

so-called global war on terror after 11 September 2001,” the group of UN

experts said.

“Some States, invoking different types of emergencies,” they noted,

“have been involved in practices such as secret detention,

disappearances, expulsion or extradition of individuals to countries

where they were in danger of torture, and other unlawful treatment or

punishment in violation of the Convention against Torture and other

international human rights instruments and humanitarian law.”

The four UN bodies stressed that “the prohibition against torture and

other forms of inhumane treatment is absolute and cannot be derogated

even under emergency situations.” In their view, “Sates must take

effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to

prevent acts of torture in any territory under their jurisdiction.”

The lack of criminalization of torture and inadequate sanctions were

described by the UN experts as main factors contributing to impunity.

“States must ensure that all acts of torture are criminalized as

offences in their domestic penal law and punishable with appropriate

penalties that take into account their gravity.”

“We often see that in the few instances where perpetrators are held

accountable they often receive sentences far below what is required by

international law,” they said. “We are dismayed to see that in almost no

recent cases have there been judicial investigations into such

allegations; almost no one has been brought to justice; and most victims

have never received any form of reparation, including rehabilitation or


The UN experts noted that adequate reparation, tailored to the needs of

the victim including compensation and rehabilitation, is rarely provided

or entirely dependent on the limited resources of private entities and

civil society organizations. “We call upon all States to ensure that

victims of torture and other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading

treatment obtain full redress and urge them to adopt general guarantees

of non-repetition including taking determined steps to fight impunity.”

The four UN bodies urged all States to become party to the Convention

against Torture and fully adopt its provisions, recognizing the

competence of the Committee against Torture to receive individual

complaints, “in order to maximize transparency and accountability in

their fight against torture and its related impunity.”

They also call on States to ratify the Optional Protocol and thus to

engage with the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture. The Optional

Protocol is a key instrument to prevent torture and ill-treatment by

ensuring the establishment of independent and effective national

preventive mechanisms empowered to visit places of detention.

Finally, the UN experts called on all States to contribute to the UN

Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture as part of a universal commitment

for the rehabilitation of torture victims and their families.

(*) The UN Committee against Torture; the Subcommittee on Prevention of

Torture; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or

degrading treatment or punishment; and the Board of Trustees of the UN

Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.


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