News / Europe

Rights Groups Urge End to Use of Torture

FILE - Syrian opposition members take part in a demonstration calling for more human rights in Syria, including putting a stop to physical torture in prisons, Beirut, Lebanon.
FILE - Syrian opposition members take part in a demonstration calling for more human rights in Syria, including putting a stop to physical torture in prisons, Beirut, Lebanon.
Lisa Schlein

The United Nations and human rights activists worldwide are demanding states end the practice of torture, which is prohibited under all circumstances under international law. Every year on June 26, the world marks the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture to honor and support the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who are victims of this heinous crime.

Torture is not a new phenomenon. It has been practiced throughout the ages and continues to be employed today in all regions of the world. Reliable statistics are not possible because torture is hidden. It occurs in secret in police stations, prisons and places of detention.

To get a sense of its scope, the human rights organization Amnesty International reports over the past five years, it has received reports of torture in 141 countries from every region of the world. Additionally, the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva says every day it receives new reports of torture from Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania.

Mona Rishmawi, chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination branch of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told VOA torture occurs in states that turn a blind eye to this practice and allow it to continue with impunity. While it mainly takes place in repressive regimes, she said, torture also occurs in democracies.

“The difference is that when it happens somebody acts. There is a Parliament. There is a question in the parliament. The minister gets embarrassed.  Somebody does something. But, if the State really, if the State does not feel accountable to its people, then these excesses happen a lot more,” said Rishmawi. 

Numerous international treaties and national and domestic laws prohibit the practice of torture. This year will mark the 30th anniversary of the seminal Convention Against Torture, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 10, Human Rights Day.

Though the Convention has been ratified by 154 states, torture continues to be widely and systematically practiced in many of these countries. The United Nations reports 41 States have refused to ratify the Convention, and several of them continue to permit torture and ill treatment against detainees.

Torture ranges from severe beatings to public sexual humiliation and rape. The victim is often forced to witness pain being inflicted on children or other family members. Rishmawi said the impact on the victim is substantial.

While many are left with severe physical injuries, Rishmawi said the worst effect is the mental anguish victims are forced to endure.

“These people were victims of intentional injury. These people were intentionally brutalized… You know, the moment you humiliate somebody and you take their dignity away, it is very difficult for these people to reconcile with themselves. Actually, that moment stays with them for a very long time,” said Rishmawi. 

Despite the horrors inflicted upon survivors, healing is possible. The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture provides humanitarian, medical, psychological, legal and financial aid to many in need. The Fund also supports many of the non-governmental organizations that run programs to rehabilitate victims of torture.

Under international law, states must ensure that victims of torture and ill treatment are fully compensated for their pain and suffering. The United Nations is calling on governments to fulfill this obligation.

It notes governments are accountable for their actions and warns they cannot torture people with impunity. It says victims of torture deserve justice and those who perpetrate these crimes must be punished. 

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs