GENEVA (26 June 2012) – An arbitrarily detained man reaches out to United Nations human rights bodies for justice. While the UN body rules in his favour, the man faces grave reprisals for speaking out in defence of his rights. He is denied medical treatment, placed under solitary confinement and allegedly beaten by prison authorities.
Today, on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we remind States that they have an obligation to protect such individuals and to ensure that they do not face reprisals or intimidation for cooperating with United Nations bodies.
Every year, the Committee against Torture and independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council receive individual communications from victims of torture, and information about alleged violations from human rights defenders and civil society actors from all regions of the world to be considered in their reports. Many detainees, at great personal risk, find the courage to share their traumatic experiences of torture and ill-treatment with the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the Special Rapporteur on Torture during their visits to detention centres.
Every year, hundreds of rehabilitation centres, small and large, supported by the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, provide indispensable humanitarian, medical and legal assistance to thousands of victims of torture and their family members.
Many of those victims and actors who enable us to do our work by providing invaluable expertise and by sharing the sufferings they have endured, experience intimidation and reprisals.
Reprisals against people who cooperate with the United Nations mechanisms in protecting and advancing human rights are absolutely unacceptable and are in violation of international law and States’ legal obligations. There must be an effective means of ensuring that reprisals do not occur, and if they do, the individuals involved and the State must be held accountable.
Under the Convention against Torture, States have an obligation to take steps to ensure that complainants and witnesses or any other individual or organizations that cooperate with the Committee are protected against ill-treatment, intimidation or reprisals. Similarly, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture calls on States parties to fully respect their obligation under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture to ensure that individuals it meets during the course of its visits are not sanctioned as a result of their cooperation.
In urging States to establish and support rehabilitation centres or facilities where victims of torture can receive treatment, the General Assembly stipulated recently that States should also ensure the safety of their staff and patients.
On this Day, we stand in solidarity with those who, after having suffered the worst forms of torture and ill-treatment, place their trust in United Nations mechanisms despite the risk of reprisals. It is imperative that States translate their commitment to the fight against torture with measures that guarantee that victims and human rights advocates engaging with the United Nations mechanisms against torture will not be subjected to reprisals and re-victimization.
(*) This joint statement was issued by the United Nations Committee against Torture, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.
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The Committee against Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CAT/Pages/CATIndex.aspx
The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx
The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/opcat/index.htm
UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture:
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