Torture seeks to annihilate the victim’s personality and denies the inherent dignity of the human being. Despite the absolute prohibition of torture under international law, torture persist in all regions of the world. Concerns about protecting national security and borders are increasingly used to allow torture and other forms of cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment. Its pervasive consequences often go beyond the isolated act on an individual; and can be transmitted through generations and lead to cycles of violence.
The United Nations has condemned torture from the outset as one of the vilest acts perpetrated by human beings on their fellow human beings.
Torture is a crime under international law. According to all relevant instruments, it is absolutely prohibited and cannot be justified under any circumstances. This prohibition forms part of customary international law, which means that it is binding on every member of the international community, regardless of whether a State has ratified international treaties in which torture is expressly prohibited. The systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity.
On 12 December 1997, by resolution 52/149, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 26 June the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, with a view to the total eradication of torture and the effective functioning of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
26 June is an opportunity to call on all stakeholders including UN Member States, civil society and individuals everywhere to unite in support of the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have been victims of torture and those who are still tortured today.
Recovering from torture requires prompt and specialized programmes. The work of rehabilitation centres and organisations around the world has demonstrated that victims can make the transition from horror to healing. The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, administered by the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva is a unique victim-focused mechanism that channels funding for the assistance to victims of torture and their families. The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture accepts donations.
This year OHCHR - jointly with the International Bar Association - is organizing a high-level panel discussion on Monday 26 June (12:00-13:15 BST) at King's College in London. This event, aimed at reaffirming in these critical times the absolute prohibition of torture, features the High Commissioner for Human Rights, along with Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, UK barrister and Co-Chair of IBA's Human Rights Institute, Juan E. Mendez, former Special Rapporteur on torture, Dr. Mark Ellis, IBA's Executive Director, Beatrice Mtetwa, Human Rights Lawyer. Sign up to watch the live broadcast.