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International Day Against Torture: We must all stand together

Summary: 26 June 2012, Brussels – Today is the UN International Day Against Torture which is an occasion to emphasise the importance of the right to personal dignity and security of all individuals around the world, guaranteed within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Speaking to mark the day, the European Union's foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said, “today I would like to reaffirm the EU's commitment to the prevention and eradication of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and to the full rehabilitation of torture victims in all parts of the world."

She went on to say that "this day is an occasion to speak up against this abhorrent violation of human rights and human dignity. Torture is not only a tragedy for the victims, it is also degrading and injuring those who perpetrate it and to societies which tolerate such outrage."
- High Representative, Catherine Ashton, on behalf of the European Union

Torture is a crime under international law - it is absolutely prohibited and cannot be justified under any circumstances. It is one of the most profound human rights abuses, that seeks to destroy the victim’s personality and dignity.

Rape, blows to the soles of the feet, suffocation in water, burns, exposure to extreme temperatures or loud noises, and repetitive music, electric shocks, sleep deprivation, shaking and beating are commonly used by torturers. Consequential psychological and emotional scars are usually the most devastating and the most difficult to repair. Often survivors withdraw from family, school and work and feel a loss of trust. The United Nations has condemned torture from the outset as one of the vilest acts perpetrated by human beings on their fellow human beings.

On 26 June 1987, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force. It was an important step in the process of globalising human rights and acknowledging that torture, and all forms of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, are absolutely and universally illegal. On 12 December 1997, the UN General Assembly thus decided to mark this historic date and proclaimed 26 June the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, by resolution 52/149, with a view to the total eradication of torture and the effective functioning of the Convention against Torture.

The Day also draws attention to the widespread use of torture against women. Certain forms of gender-specific violence perpetrated by State actors, as well as by private individuals or organisations, clearly amount to torture, and it is now recognised that gender-specific violence falls within the definition of torture in the Convention against Torture. The EU calls upon all States to adopt a gender-sensitive approach in the fight against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, paying special attention to gender-based violence.

In her message Catherine Ashton states that “Recalling resolution 66/150 adopted by the UN General Assembly on 19 December 2011, the EU reiterates its principled condemnation of all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including through intimidation (…) The EU calls upon all States to implement fully the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The EU welcomes and supports the work done by the UN, the Council of Europe and the OSCE in the fight against torture. Catherine Ashton further explains that “through funding at the national and the EU level, we offer substantial support to organizations that provide medical, social, legal and other assistance to many men, women and children who are victims of torture with the aim of restoring their health and dignity as human beings.” She also mentions that on the 1st of June of this year, the EU launched a new call for proposals called "Fighting Impunity", dedicated to supporting civil society actions against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Ashton also acknowledges the efforts by the many NGOs and individuals who work tirelessly for the prevention of torture and support suffering victims, and to mobilise public opinion on this important day in the UN calendar, and she concludes by stating that: “We must all stand together to make the world free from torture.”

  • Ref: EU12-216EN
  • EU source: European Union
  • UN forum: 
  • Date: 26/6/2012

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European Union Member States