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Abuse grows hatred

25-07-2006 by Alain Aeschlimann

Torture is a worldwide, insidious practice with no geographical, social or economic boundaries. In recent years, a variety of considerations, including threats to State security and the allegedly dangerous nature of certain people, have been invoked in an attempt to justify the use of coercive methods of interrogation. By the head of protection activities, ICRC.

   

   
       
 

Torture is not only an affront to humanity, it is also a crime prohibited by numerous international instruments.*

Torture is a worldwide, insidious practice with no geographical, social or economic boundaries. In many countries, it is used to force confessions and avoid thorough criminal investigation, thereby thwarting the due process of law.

In recent years, a variety of considerations, including threats to State security and the allegedly dangerous nature of certain people, have been invoked in an attempt to justify the us e of coercive methods of interrogation.

Attempts have even been made to limit or renegotiate the scope of the prohibition on torture. One such attempt involves the notion that, while the prohibition of torture is absolute, the use of other forms of ill-treatment, usually classified as “cruel, inhuman or degrading,” may be permitted since they “fall short” of “actual” torture.

Torture and other forms of ill-treatment necessarily have an effect on those who resort to such practices and, by extension, the society they live in. Historically, whenever torture has been tolerated it has resulted in a more permissive environment which, in turn, has caused an escalation of the use of torture and the erosion of its prohibition.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) cannot accept any attempt to weaken the fundamental protection to which each human being is entitled. International law takes into account the legitimate security requirements of States and their right to detain and interrogate people for security reasons. However, it requires that States detain and interrogate within an appropriate legal framework and with due regard for the physical and mental well-being of the people concerned.

Torture is fundamentally an issue of suffering, dehumanization and contempt. The direct physical and psychological effects on the victim often last a lifetime. The unseen victims of torture are the families, whose structure and integrity are often disrupted or even destroyed.

The ICRC remains committed to working throughout the world to ensure that detainees are treated with humanity. But governments must also do their part. It is not enough to declare a commitment to the laws upholding basic human values. For laws to produce their intended effect they must be promoted and implemented, and of fenders prosecuted and punished.

* The Geneva Conventions prohibit torture and all forms of “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” The 1984 Convention against Torture states that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever may be invoked as a justification for torture.