International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture


Today marks the 20th anniversary of the day that the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force. Since 1998, it has been marked by the UN as the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture, although there is, alas, little to celebrate.

As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated today, “The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is an occasion to highlight the unambiguous and absolute prohibition on torture and all forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. It is also an opportunity to express solidarity with the suffering of torture victims and their families, and to reaffirm the need for a global commitment to rehabilitate all victims of all such abuse.” He noted, however, that “even after two decades, this instrument falls well short of universal ratification,” and there was little joy to be gained from his observation that “This is also the first year that the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance – another milestone in the struggle to eliminate torture – has been open for signature.”

Whilst it’s clearly intolerable that so many of the signatories to the Convention still routinely engage in torture, it’s particularly distressing to note that many Western countries, who still regular criticize other countries for human rights violations, are also backsliding to tyranny: a coalition of the willing, led by the United States, who are defying their obligations by embracing torture and facilitating “Enforced Disappearances” via the process known as “extraordinary rendition” – either directly, in the case of the US, or indirectly, in the case of the UK and the many other countries who are complicit in the “rendition” programme.

To understand the true ramifications of torture, beyond the vile propaganda of Fox’s 24 and our own fear-mongering governments, visit the website of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture for 24 hours in the life of a torture survivor, a poignant slideshow featuring an Iranian torture survivor and his reflections on his experiences, and click here for extracts from the diary of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident falsely imprisoned in Guantánamo, describing his torture in Morocco, where he was “rendered” for that express purpose by representatives of the US government.

For more on US torture policies, see my book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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