“There are many different types of torture survivors, such as persons suspected of having committed a crime or an act of terrorism, opponents of repressive regimes, members of racial, religious or sexual minorities. But in the overwhelming majority of all cases of torture worldwide, torture is a privilege of the poor. Most of the victims and survivors of torture belong to the poorest and most disadvantaged sectors of society.” – Manfred Nowak, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and IRCT Patron
As Nowak describes, poverty is both a cause and effect of torture. The poor are desperately vulnerable to becoming a victim of torture due to their position in society. They may become easy targets for police, who may torture them to confess to a crime they did not commit. The poor also cannot bribe their way out of detention or pay for legal assistance. Socio-economic status is highly related to vulnerability to torture.
Furthermore, for those who are tortured, poverty is a likely outcome following the incident. They may be tortured in order to extract a bribe, depriving them of much needed resources. Torture may cause them to lose their livelihood or ability to sustain themselves due to the physical and psychological damage.
As a result, the IRCT has recognized poverty as a correlating feature of torture and will thus focus on it through our strategy. In 2011, during our annual Council Meeting, the IRCT drafted the London Declaration on Poverty and Torture, which described the relationship between socio-economic status and vulnerability to poverty. We intend to make this a focus of our work in the years to come, through, for example, advocating for recognition of a right to rehabilitation – that all victims of torture have a fundamental human right to access holistic rehabilitation, which includes psycho-social and medical treatment, access to justice and reparations.