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.
Amnesty International: Global crisis on torture exposed by new worldwide campaign
(Brussels, 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 United Nations (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.”
Torture in today’s world
Since 1984, 155 states have ratified the UN Convention Against Torture, 142 of which are researched by Amnesty International. Amnesty International observed at least 79 of these still torturing in 2014 – more than half the states party to the Convention that the organisation reports on. A further 32 UN member states haven’t adopted the Convention, although the global legal ban on torture binds them too.
Amnesty International has reported on torture and other forms of ill-treatment in at least 141 countries from every region of the world over the past five years – 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 organisation finds even one case of torture or other ill-treatment totally unacceptable.
EU action against torture and other cruel treatment
The European Union (EU) and its member states have a key role to play in monitoring, preventing and ending torture. This will only happen by ensuring consistent action is taken to stop torture and seek redress for victims, and by speaking out against torture whenever and wherever in the world it occurs.
The EU and its member states have undertaken significant international legal commitments and developed instruments to prevent torture globally, including the EU Guidelines on torture and other cruel treatment, and regulations concerning the trade in goods or ‘tools’ which could be used for torture (Council Regulation 1236/2005).
However, five EU member states have not yet ratified the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture that provides an independent and efficient international visiting mechanism for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment.
Further, Amnesty International has long called for the EU and its member states to address member states’ complicity in torture and ill-treatment that have occurred in the context of the US-led CIA rendition and secret detention programmes. The organisation has long challenged the notion that unenforceable, bilateral diplomatic assurances from one government to another provide reliable safeguards against torture and ill-treatment.
Torture in 2014: 30 Years of Broken Promises
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.
Amnesty International is calling on governments throughout the world to implement protective mechanisms to prevent torture and punish those responsible. These include access to 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.
Whilst 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, more needs to be done to ensure a consistent and global approach.
“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.
As part of the Stop Torture campaign Amnesty International commissioned a Globescan survey to gauge worldwide attitudes to torture.
A new global survey of more than 21,000 people in 21 countries across every continent, including 4 EU countries (Germany, Greece, Spain, UK), reveals fear of torture exists in all these countries
Nearly half of respondents (44%) fear torture if taken into custody
The vast majority (82%) want strong laws to protect them from torture
Still, more than a third (36%) believe torture can be justified in certain circumstances
For more information or to receive a copy of the media briefing, Torture in 2014: 30 Years of Broken Promises, please contact