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

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora