Today, on the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) reminds all States in the Americas of their obligation to provide justice and reparation for victims of torture so that they can start rebuilding their lives.
In more than 140 countries around the world, men, women and children suffer from the atrocious crime of torture. They are tortured in prisons, police stations, army barracks, on the streets, in hospitals, in secret detention facilities, in schools, and even in their homes. Among a seemingly endless cavalcade of torture methods reported around the world are beatings, electric shocks, burns, cuts, simulated drowning, threats to kill family members, deprivation of food, sleep and medicine, mutilation, rape and mock executions.
Torture seeks to destroy all aspects of the person; to rupture their sense of identity and sever their links to family and community. It can result in permanent physical impairment and is psychologically scarring, leaving victims with long-lasting illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder and deep depression. Victims of torture often report having severe headaches, not being able to sleep, feeling suicidal, easily frightened and suspicious, making it extremely difficult to maintain social relations, to work and function in society. These issues do not go away by themselves, and if left unaddressed are often exacerbated.
For decades, the IACHR and IRCT member centres have been at the forefront in ensuring recognition and rehabilitation for victims of torture in the Americas. Thousands of victims seek recognition and reparation through the IACHR complaints procedures and come to IRCT members for support to rebuild their lives. Our experiences show that recognition, reparation and rehabilitation does help victims live with their past and rebuild their lives.
However, there is still a long way to go before all torture victims in the Americas can access the support they need and to which they are entitled. Today, IRCT member centres in the Americas report that torture and ill-treatment is a continuing problem and that victims still lack effective access to rehabilitation. Their experience indicates that there are considerable barriers for victims to obtain justice and rehabilitation including widespread impunity for perpetrators and tremendous resource constraints. National torture rehabilitation programmes continue to be under resourced and thus unable to service all the victims who come to them for support.
Victims of torture have a right to redress under Article 14 of the Convention against Torture as elaborated by the UN Committee against Torture General Comment 3. In the Americas, the IACHR has pioneered jurisprudence on victims’ rights and reparation. The obligations on States are very clear and most recently confirmed by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States in a resolution that calls on States to ensure that victims can access appropriate rehabilitation promptly and without discrimination.
When States fail to implement these obligations, the IACHR and IRCT members step in to support victims with recognition and rehabilitation for the wrongs done to them. This experience has demonstrated that appropriate support can help traumatised victims start a process of rebuilding their lives but also bring to light the high number of victims who have been let down by their States and receive no support at all.
Today, IACHR and IRCT therefore call on all States in the Americas to make redress and rehabilitation a political and financial priority so that torture victims across the region can be supported in their life after torture.
For more information, please contact Asger Kjaerum, Director of Advocacy, IRCT, firstname.lastname@example.org, +4527122197