Today, 30 years after the historic adoption of the Convention against Torture, and despite almost universal condemnation of such methods, torture is still practised worldwide. Half the countries of the world use it on a systematic basis against political opponents, the poorer sections of the population, common law prisoners, migrants and refugees: Uzbekistan, Yemen, the Philippines, Mexico, Congo, to name but a few. Something needs to be done as a matter of urgency to stop this trend and eradicate torture around the world.
Electrical discharges, beatings, burns, sleep deprivation, waterboarding, long hours spent in painful positions … Torture takes many forms. It is practised openly as a means of terror or simply as a means of eliciting information, in which case, those responsible rarely admit to using torture, preferring to call it ‘questioning’.
PROHIBITED IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES
Torture is an unacceptable, barbarous practice; it is also illegal, prohibited under international law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 5).
The Convention against Torture, which was adopted on 10 December 1984, reiterates this absolute ban and sets out the obligations deriving from it. A large majority of countries are parties to the convention and have thus undertaken to comply with the ban. The convention has been backed up by an optional protocol, which provides for national mechanisms for the prevention of torture, entailing visits to places of deprivation of liberty. To date, only 77 out of 194 states are parties to the protocol, and only 60 countries have actually set up this kind of inspection mechanism.
WHY PETITION THE EUROPEAN UNION?
Torture and inhuman treatment also take place in European countries, as is evidenced by the reports of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), which visits detention centres, and the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
But you might think that there is not so much of a risk here …
Why then did so many European countries agree so readily to cooperate in the CIA’s secret torture operations from 2001 as part of the fight against terrorism, thereby ignoring their commitment never to engage or be involved in such practices?
A US Senate report, published on 9 December 2014, confirms that brutal techniques were used by the CIA against many detainees over a number of years. Various investigations have shown that European countries were complicit in such acts of violence, in particular Lithuania, Poland and Romania, and provided the CIA with secret detention sites. Former detainees have said that they were beaten, deprived of sleep for long periods of time and subjected to near drowning. Other EU countries, in particular Germany and the UK, are believed to have facilitated such operations, especially rendition flights. Any calls for justice on these practices have so far been rebuffed by the authorities on grounds of state secrecy. Such operations must be fully investigated in the various Member States concerned and those responsible must be brought to justice.
It is to be feared, following the terrorist attacks that took place at the beginning of 2015, that European countries will again be tempted to consider human rights and basic freedoms as being of secondary importance, and to give top priority to security concerns.
EUROPE NEEDS TO TAKE THIS ISSUE SERIOUSLY!
LET’S CALL ON THE EU TO SET AN EXAMPLE, LET’S CALL ON THE EU TO TAKE A CONSISTENT STANCE IN ITS EXTERNAL RELATIONS