The Conrad Hilton Foundation has awarded one million dollars - the world's largest humanitarian prize - to a Danish-based anti-torture group that works on behalf of torture victims worldwide.
The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, or I-R-C-T, supports a global network of more than 200 rehabilitation centers for torture victims in 80 countries. The group provides medical and psychological care to approximately 100-thousand victims each year.
In announcing the prize, the vice-president of the Conrad Hilton Foundation, Judy Miller, described torture as one of the worst forms of human suffering.
She says, "It is our hope that the Hilton prize will help expand the work of the I-R-C-T to motivate the world's governments to end torture once and for all and to help support those who have been subjected to its evil."
Although torture is known to be widespread, there are no comprehensive statistics on the number of victims around the world.
According to the U-N Refugee Agency, nearly one-third of the world's 12-million refugees have been subjected to torture. The number of victims who are internally displaced and still living in their countries is unknown.
The secretary-general of the anti-torture group, Jens Modvig, says he hopes the award will help push the issue of torture to the forefront of international attention and will help break the silence surrounding what he refers to as this difficult issue.
He says, "It is hidden in the obscure detention centers, in the regions of countries. It is not something that neither the torture victims nor the perpetrators boast about. Secondly to all of us, it is horrifying. It is ugly. We do not want to speak about it. We do not want to hear about it because it is beyond imagination, the human suffering involved in severe torture."
Mr. Modvig says everyone must share the responsibility for seeing that torture is eradicated and for helping those who survive it to rebuild their lives.
The Conrad Hilton prize will be presented officially to the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims by Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, at a ceremony in New York on September 24th.