“Torturers must never be allowed to get away with their crimes, and systems that enable torture should be dismantled or transformed.” – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
Dharamshala: 26 June 2020, marks the 23rd anniversary of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, a day to speak out against the crime of torture; to honour and support victims and survivors throughout the world. This year’s commemoration is unique because we come together to commemorate the day amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why mark 26 June as International Day in Support of Victims of Torture?
On 12 December 1997, by resolution 52/149, the UN General Assembly proclaimed and designated 26 June as a day in support of victims of torture with a view of eradicating torture and the effective functioning of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
There were two reasons for marking this day as International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. First, the United Nations Charter was signed during the midst of WW II on 26 June. Second, the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, one of the key instruments in fighting torture, came into effect on this day.
The decision to annually observe the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture was taken by the UN General Assembly at the proposal of Denmark, which is home to the world-renowned International Rehabilitation Council for Torture of Victims. (IRCT)
The first International Day in Support of Victims of Torture was held on 26 June 1998, and since then nearly hundreds of organizations all over the world mark the day each year with events, celebrations, and campaigns. Today, the UN Convention against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment has been ratified by 162 countries.
Torture as a Key Instrument in Dealing with Political Dissidents in Tibet
Despite its absolute prohibition under international law, torture continues to be a key instrument in dealing with political dissidents in Tibet. In the name of protecting national security and unity, torture and other forms of cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment are practiced unabatedly in Tibet. Ironically, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) signed and ratified the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) on 12 December 1986 and 4 October 1988 respectively.
In Tibet, torture is commonly used against Tibetans exercising their most basic human rights. A simple act of sharing a photo of His Holiness the Dalai Lama or communicating with family members in India is considered a crime. Those who are arrested are subjected to cruel, and degrading forms of torture, without due process of law.
Electrocution, pricking cigarettes on the body, severe beating, sleep deprivation, and forced labor are few of the commonly used techniques employed by the Chinese authorities. Apart from the horrors of physical pain, torture leaves behind deep emotional and psychological scars, manifesting in post-traumatic disorders.
Over the years, there are numerous cases of Tibetans who have died directly as a result of severe torture. Many Tibetans have also died shortly after being released from Chinese custody, during which they were subjected to inhumane torture.
The systematic practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity and China must end this horrific practice. We use this day to express our solidarity with victims of torture all over the world, those who have endured and who are still enduring unimaginable pain.
– filed by UN, EU and Human Rights Desk, DIIR