COLUMN: Speak up against torture

  - Leader file photo
— image credit: Leader file photo

Today is the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

The Convention against Torture and Other, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment defines torture in the following manner: “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Various individuals commit torture around the globe, such as police and prison authorities, terrorist organizations, groups led by government regimes, and others.

The extent to which torture takes place is appalling. According to Amnesty International, “torture or other ill-treatment [has occurred] in 141 countries over the past five years.”

Furthermore, it has been found that many countries who had signed the Convention against Torture are in fact still engaging in torture and this is in direct contravention to international law.

The harsh suffering that victims of torture face in detention is disturbing and a threat to universal human rights.

Take the case of Claudia Medina Tamariz, for instance, who states that she was tortured in Mexico through electric shocks, sexual assault and beatings.  This is one of many cases of torture that take place in various countries around the world, and the methods of torture that tormentors use are various and extremely cruel.

Victims may have their voices subjugated by those in power. Their legal rights trampled upon, evidence of torture hidden away, and lack of access to medical care are examples of further mistreatment that torture victims face when detained.

Additionally, victims not only face the immediate pain and suffering, but can also suffer from long-term physical and psychological health problems.

Ultimately, many torture victims fail to even get justice for the pain that they have endured, and torturers might not face any prosecution.

The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) describes how torture can affect a person of any age, including children, and that it can be prevented through various means.

The IRCT supports increasing justice for victims by holding those who have committed crimes accountable.  Governments are also urged to follow the Instanbul Protocol, which encourages collection of medical and forensic evidence in torture cases.  Torture is simply unacceptable and inhumane, and it is important that we as a society take a strong and unified position against it.

Various international human rights documents, such as the UN Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights advocate against torture and mistreatment. However, this abhorrent practice continues to take place.

Governments and law enforcement authorities must truly act in the well-being of all.  To use torture to obtain information, get a forced statement, or punish an individual for a crime is not tolerable.  T

To show your support for Claudia, please visit the following link: http://bit.ly/1iwxouR

To support other victims of torture in their fight for justice, please visit:  http://bit.ly/TjV2hT

On this day, let’s all commit to creating a world free of torture so that the children of this planet can live in a world where no one’s human rights are violated.

Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University. He writes regularly for The Leader.


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