Torture is a brutal attempt to destroy a person’s sense of dignity and sense of human worth. It acts also as a weapon of war, spreading terror beyond its direct victims to communities and societies.
On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we honour the men and women who have suffered, enduring their ordeal with courage and inner strength. We mourn, too, those who did not survive.
States must take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under their jurisdiction. There are no exceptional circumstances whatsoever – whether a state of war, or a threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency or national security situation. States’ obligations also include the duty to provide effective and prompt redress, compensation and rehabilitation for all torture victims.
Returning to ordinary life after torture is hard. The United Nations Trust Fund for Victims of Torture assists individuals and organisations around the world to ease physical and psychological pain, re-start shattered lives and support the right to truth and justice through legal assistance. I thank those Governments and other contributors who make this assistance possible, and I call on all members of the international community to support the Fund. I also commend the many individuals and organisations that provide medical, psychological, legal and social assistance to victims of torture and their families.
The recent entry into force of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances is a welcome addition to the body of international human rights law, since enforced disappearance is yet another manifestation of torture. I appeal to all Members States to allow full and unhindered access by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to places where people are deprived of liberty in their country. I also call on all States that have not done so to ratify the Convention against Torture, and to allow individual complaints by victims under its instruments.
At a time when the legitimate aspirations of people in many regions of the world for greater freedom, dignity and a better life are too often met with violence and repression, I urge States to respect the fundamental rights of all people.
Torture and other forms of cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment and punishment, wherever they occur and whatever the circumstances, can never be justified.
Ban Ki-Moon is the Secretary General of the United Nations.
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