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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora