Torture: Call for renewed fight against torture worldwide
Today, on United Nations International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture (26 June 2003), Amnesty International issued a fresh call for an end to torture, as it launched a new manual to help those fighting against torture: Combating Torture: a manual for action.
The Chilean torture ship Esmeralda docks in England at the start of July as part of a 'goodwill' mission to the UK. During General Pinochet's reign in Chile, hundreds of people at a time were tortured on board the ship. Yet the Chilean navy has not acknowledged the ship's past and those responsible for torture under Pinochet have still not been brought to justice.
From 1997 to the middle of 2000 Amnesty International received reports of torture or ill-treatment in over 150 countries. People had died as a result of torture in over 80 countries. The methods of torture reported range from electrocution to sexual assault and suffocation.
Lesley Warner, Amnesty International UK Media Director, said:
'The campaign and fight to eradicate all forms of torture is as vital as ever. In some countries torture is still actively promoted, while others are turning a blind eye or allowing other countries to undertake it on their behalf.'
Combating torture: A manual for action is an invaluable tool for all those who are fighting torture around the world. It brings together the standards and recommendations of the various UN institutions, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and other sources from around the world, as well as Amnesty International's recommendations concerning the prevention of torture and ill-treatment.
Lesley Warner said: 'It is everyone's responsibility to ensure an end to torture. Governments must use their embassies to monitor torture and raise concerns about its use. They must ban the export of torture equipment.
'Ordinary people can take a stand by writing to governments who persist in torturing their citizens, telling them 'We know what you are doing and we will not stand for it'.'
Much of the torture and ill-treatment recorded by human rights organisations is inflicted on people who have been taken into custody by agents of the state. Law enforcement officials are endowed by the state with the power to arrest and detain. A person taken into custody is vulnerable to the risk of abuse of these powers through violent and unlawful behaviour. Isolation from the outside world increases the risk.
However torture does not only occur in custody: around the world, great numbers of prisoners are held in conditions which are damaging to their physical and mental well-being and can constitute threats to health and life. Conditions, such as overcrowding, poor sanitation, lack of food and medicines and denial of contact with families and friends, fall short of UN standards for the treatment of detainees and prisoners. Singly or in combination, the worst conditions can constitute ill-treatment or even torture.
Between 1997 and 2000 Amnesty International received reports of cruel, inhuman or degrading conditions of detention in 90 countries; such conditions were widespread in over 50 countries. People confined in institutions for the mentally disabled and institutions for people with other forms of illness or disability are also at risk of torture or ill-treatment.
The final agreement on a new treaty to prevent torture, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, was an important achievement in 2002. States which become party to this treaty commit themselves to accepting inspections to places of detention by an international group of experts, working alongside national experts, and improving conditions according to their recommendations.
Details of how to order the book are available online.
Further information about Amnesty International's campaign against torture is available online. /p>