The prohibition of torture is absolute – under all circumstances.
Yet this core principle is undermined every day in detention centres, prisons, police stations, psychiatric institutions and elsewhere.
I am encouraged that we are moving towards universal ratification of the United Nations Convention against Torture, currently ratified by 166 States. Ensuring that national laws and practices are in line with the Convention is essential for moving the prohibition of torture from principle to practice.
Torture usually happens behind closed doors. It is therefore crucial for independent international and national human rights mechanisms to open those doors. The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture does exactly that, visiting more than 100 prisons and other institutions and interviewing more than 1,000 detainees, officials, law enforcement personnel and medical staff every year, in close partnership with national preventive mechanisms.
In all our work, we must support victims and ensure respect for their right to rehabilitation and redress. This victim-centred approach guides the UN Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Torture, which assists nearly 50,000 victims of torture annually in some 80 countries. It has also helped us better understand different dimensions of torture, including the use of sexual and gender-based violence, and the specific assistance that different kinds of survivors of torture need.
Torture is a vicious attempt at breaking a person’s will. On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, I urge all States to end impunity for perpetrators and eradicate these reprehensible acts that defy our common humanity.