Read the letter below.
United Nations International Day
in Support of the Victims of Torture
As one of the leading organisations dedicated to the fight against torture, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) would like to share some of its concerns on the occasion of the 26 June celebrations. As you certainly know, 26 June is the United Nations International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture, annually celebrated to remember the entry into force of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on 26 June 1987.
Supporting torture survivors is part of the daily work of the IRCT and its 142 member centres worldwide. Committed to eradicating torture and to assisting victims and their families, we provide care to more than 100,000 people every year. The consequences of torture reach far beyond immediate pain. Many survivors suffer from symptoms such as flashbacks, anxiety, insomnia, nightmares and depression and feel guilt and shame as a result of the humiliation they have endured. And many believe that they have betrayed themselves or their family and friends. Moreover, family members are often deeply affected by the ordeal their parent, sibling or child has experienced and the subsequent changes in their loved one’s behaviour. This affects both individuals and communities.
The European Union has been active in the fight against torture and its consequences, and we are very thankful for that. However, more can be done, both financially and politically, and we strongly encourage the EU to take a stand against torture also in the future.
Every year, the European Commission through the European Instrument of Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) supports projects on prevention and rehabilitation of torture. For the next two years, 20 million EUR are foreseen - making the EC one of the biggest donors for such activities. Though we acknowledge the positive impacts of the projects funded under the EIDHR, we have to remind the European Community that the funding is still largely insufficient. Less than 10 percent of the requests for funding are approved. Other funding opportunities such as the European Refugee Fund don’t always include rehabilitation of torture survivors among their priorities.
Besides the financial instruments, the EU has also a political tool at its disposal: the EU guidelines on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (2001, reviewed in 2008). Though diplomatic actions might sometimes request discretion, the EU should be more transparent on concrete action taken to implement the guidelines; this includes better consultation with local stakeholders and civil society organisations. The limited dialogue with civil society organisations both at international and local level can only question the real implementation of the EU guidelines and the political will to stand firmly in the fight against torture and its consequences. Moreover, too often human rights are sidelined by other issues such as security, trade or energy. In addition there is a need for more coherence between internal and external policies. EU member States must set the example. How can the guidelines encourage “to give favourable consideration to accession to the Operational Protocol on the Convention against torture”, when only 12 EU Member States have ratified the OPCAT?
On this day in support of the victims of torture, we want to share our concerns, together with the thousands of persons who are speaking out against torture today and insist that torture survivors’ needs and rights be fulfilled in the European Union and in the rest of the world. Thank you very much for your future support.
With best regards,
IRCT Secretary General
Laetitia de Radigues
Head of the IRCT Brussels office