[Statement] 26 June 2013: Torture must and can be eradicated not only in law -OMCT

26 June 2013: Torture must and can be eradicated not only in law
‘Torture must and can be eradicated not only in law’

Geneva and Vienna, 26th of June 2013.


The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the principal global civil society coalition against torture, calls on the UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture to move from legal prohibition to real enforcement.

Speaking at an event twenty years after the UN World Conference in Vienna in 1993 that had reaffirmed the absolute prohibition of torture, cruel inhuman or degrading treatment, the OMCT pointed to ‘unfinished business in the fight against torture’.

Just like twenty years ago, the OMCT receives daily information on cases of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment from across the world. Torture takes many features. It can be used as an instrument of repression such as in Syria, or is inflicted in the name of security or counter-terrorism as we witnessed over the last decade including in Western democracies. But in the large majority of cases it is used against person detained on ordinary criminal charges and disproportionally on those belonging to minorities, marginal groups or the poor.

‘In light of this the Day for Victims of Torture cannot but remind us that legal obligations are often not matched by reality. Torture like few other crimes such as slavery is absolutely prohibited under any circumstance under international law. The law is crystal clear. Yet torture continues to be practiced in most if not all regions of the world. This paradox can no longer be accepted’, said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.

Over the last twenty years significant progress has been made in the ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) by a majority of states and the entry into force of an innovative Optional Protocol that requires states to establish mechanisms that can visit police and prisons where people are at risk of torture. We call on states to use June 26 as a symbolic date to sign and ratify the UN Convention Against Torture and its Optional Protocol if they have not done so yet.

But ratifying conventions is meaningless if it is not matched with real enforcement and implementation. The UN Committee Against Torture, the authoritative body overseeing the implementation of the UN Convention Against Torture, provides on a regular basis vital recommendations to states to ensure compliance. These need to be made subject of broad domestic debate and lead to genuine anti-torture reforms.

In the experience of the OMCT impunity remains the rule rather than the exception. ‘Above all we have to break the tacit assumption of many officials that those who torture deserve protection because they serve the state. Should States not have double interest in prosecuting torture – not despite but because – the crime is committed in its name? Required is a sea change and prosecutors who see it as their responsibility to bring those responsible for torture to justice. If this was the case, torture could come to an end’.

The fight against torture requires strong local human rights organisations able to do their work without threats. ‘As we speak many of our members are being harassed, intimidated or threatened because of the anti-torture work they do. The example of organisations being threatened to be closed down in Russia or Egypt because of their international connection is particularly worrying’, said OMCT Secretary General.

On the occasion of the UN Day for the Victims of Torture, the OMCT and its partners are conducting a number of special events including in Austria twenty years after the Vienna World Conference. Earlier the OMCT had briefed the EU Parliament on the fight against torture in North Africa. Further events are held in Tunisia, Libya, the Philippines and Colombia in order to remind State of their obligations to respect and guarantee the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment but also remind the public at large to mobilise to denounce such practices that indeed ‘nothing can justify torture under any circumstances’.

For further information, please contact:

Gerald Staberock, Secretary-General, +41(0) 22 809 49 39, omct@omct.org


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