London, 13 May 2014
Amnesty International has accused governments around the world of betraying their commitments to stamp out torture, three decades after the ground-breaking Convention Against Torture was adopted by the UN in 1984.
“Governments around the world are two-faced on torture - prohibiting it in law, but facilitating it in practice” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, as he launched Stop Torture, Amnesty International’s latest global campaign to combat widespread torture and other ill-treatment in the modern world.
“Torture is not just alive and well – it is flourishing in many parts of the world. As more governments seek to justify torture in the name of national security, the steady progress made in this field over the last thirty years is being eroded.”
Since 1984, 155 states have ratified the UN Convention Against Torture, 142 of which are researched by Amnesty International. In 2014, Amnesty International observed at least 79 of these still torturing – more than half the states party to the Convention that the organisation reports on. A further 40 UN states haven’t adopted the Convention, although the global legal ban on torture binds them too.
Over the last five years, Amnesty International has reported on torture and other forms of ill-treatment in at least 141 countries from every region of the world – virtually every country on which it works. The secretive nature of torture means the true number of countries that torture is likely to be higher still.
In some of these countries torture is routine and systematic. In others, Amnesty International has only documented isolated and exceptional cases. The organization finds even one case of torture or other ill-treatment totally unacceptable.
The Stop Torture campaign launches with a new media briefing, Torture in 2014: 30 Years of Broken Promises, which provides an overview of the use of torture in the world today.
The briefing details a variety of torture techniques – from stress positions and sleep deprivation to electrocution of the genitals – used against criminal suspects, security suspects, dissenting voices, political rivals and others.
As part of the campaign Amnesty International commissioned a Globescan survey to gauge worldwide attitudes to torture. Alarmingly, the survey found nearly half (44%) of respondents – from 21 countries across every continent - fear they would be at risk of torture if taken into custody in their country.
The vast majority (82%) believe there should be clear laws against torture. However, more than a third (36%) still thought torture could be justified in certain circumstances.
“The results from this new global survey are startling, with nearly half of the people we surveyed feeling fearful and personally vulnerable to torture. The vast majority of people believe that there should be clear rules against torture, although more than a third still think that torture could be justified in certain circumstances. Overall, we can see broad global support amongst the public for action to prevent torture,” said Caroline Holme, Director at GlobeScan.
Measures such as the criminalisation of torture in national legislation, opening detention centres to independent monitors, and video recording interrogations have all led to a decrease in the use of torture in those countries taking their commitments under the Convention Against Torture seriously.
Amnesty International is calling on governments to implement protective mechanisms to prevent and punish torture – such as proper medical examinations, prompt access to lawyers, independent checks on places of detention, independent and effective investigations of torture allegations, the prosecution of suspects and proper redress for victims.
The organization’s global work against torture continues, but will focus in particular on five countries where torture is rife and Amnesty International believes it can achieve significant impact. Substantive reports with specific recommendations for each will form the spine of the campaign.
“Thirty years ago Amnesty led the campaign for a worldwide commitment to combat torture resulting in the UN’s Convention Against Torture. Much progress has been made since, but it is disheartening that today we still need a worldwide campaign to ensure that those promises are fulfilled,” said Salil Shetty.
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Max Tucker, Press Officer – Global Campaigns, Thematic Issues and UN, Amnesty International, +44 (0) 207 413 5810,
Amnesty international is a global movement of more than 3 million supporters, members and activists in more than 150 countries and territories who campaign to end grave abuses of human rights. Our vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the universal declaration of Human rights and other international human rights standards.
We are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion and are funded mainly by our membership and public donations.
For more information, visit: www.Amnesty.org
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