Torture In 2014: 30 Years of Broken Promises

Report
May 12, 2014

Torture In 2014: 30 Years of Broken Promises

A Global Crisis of Barbarism, Failure And Fear
Although governments have prohibited this dehumanizing practice in law and have recognized global disgust at its existence, many of them are carrying out torture or facilitating it in practice. The political failure by governments is compounded and fuelled by a corrosive state of denial. Those who order or commit torture usually escape justice. Torture is mostly carried out with impunity, with no investigation and no one prosecuted.

Rather than respecting the rule of law through zero-tolerance of torture, governments persistently and routinely lie about it to their own people and to the world. Rather than ensuring effective safeguards to protect their citizens from the torturer; instead they allow torture to thrive.

The pervasive and pernicious nature of this abuse demonstrates that a global ban is not enough.

Our worldwide poll also shows that the overwhelming majority of people want clear rules against torture. Such rules and other safeguards could prevent and ultimately bring an end to torture. Double standards on torture must be tackled head on. Impunity must end.

For more than 50 years, Amnesty International has been fighting to stamp out one of the most insidious acts one human being can perpetrate against another. 30 years ago, our movement led the campaign to secure the UN Convention Against Torture. Now we are launching a worldwide "Stop Torture" campaign to get that promise fulfilled.

This latest campaign is a rallying call to stop torture. And we can: if all of us - from those on the street to heads of state - stand between the tortured and the torturer.

Amnesty International is mobilizing across the world to end torture. We will target governments, demonstrate, and expose the brutality of this noxious abuse. We will stand alongside those who bravely defend others against torture. Together we will intervene whenever people are tortured. We will hold torturers to account. Torture survivors will know they are not forgotten and not alone.

Combating torture is part of our history, it is our legacy and - until the final torture chamber closes for business - it is our future.

 

Torture - A Human Rights Violation And A Crime

TORTURE OCCURS WHEN A PERSON INTENTIONALLY INFLICTS SEVERE PAIN OR SUFFERING ON ANOTHER FOR PURPOSES SUCH AS OBTAINING INFORMATION OR A CONFESSION, OR PUNISHING, INTIMIDATING OR COERCING SOMEONE. THE PERPETRATOR HAS TO BE AN OFFICIAL, OR THERE SHOULD AT LEAST BE SOME DEGREE OF OFFICIAL APPROVAL OF THE ACT.

This bald summary of the legal definition of torture in the UN Convention against Torture intends to reflect the necessity of the total rejection of an act where one human being targets the body and/or mind of another, and deliberately causes him or her great pain, creating the pain as a means to an end, and turning his or her victim into a mere tool.

It is no wonder that the right to freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is probably the human right most robustly protected under international law.

States' obligations under international law leave them with absolutely no wriggle room. Torture and other ill-treatment are prohibited always, everywhere and against anyone. This prohibition extends to the worst emergencies including war, internal disturbances and natural or man-made catastrophes. It protects the most feared individuals such as enemy soldiers and spies, serious criminals and terrorists.

In legal terms, the absolute prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment is "non-derogable", that is, it cannot be relaxed even in times of emergency. The prohibition has achieved such a strong international consensus that it has become a rule of customary international law, which is binding even on states which have not joined the relevant human rights treaties. Acts of torture and certain types of other ill-treatment are also crimes under international law. They are war crimes under all four Geneva Conventions (ratified by every single state in the world). In addition, under certain circumstances, these acts could amount to crimes against humanity or to acts of genocide for instance under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

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