UNITED NATIONS, June 26 -- Senior UN officials on Thursday reiterated their pledge that every victim of torture will one day gain his or her right to acknowledgment while marking the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, calling on the international community to boost efforts "to eradicate this heinous practice."
"As we honor the victims on this International Day, let us pledge to strengthen our efforts to eradicate this heinous practice," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message, underlining that no forms of torture should be ever tolerated.
The United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is observed annually on June 26 to speak out against the crime of torture and to honor and support victims and survivors throughout the world.
The decision to annually observe the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture was taken by the General Assembly at the proposal of Denmark, which is home to the world-renowned International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims.
Nearly 100 organizations in dozens of countries all over the world have commemorated the day each year since 1998, when events were organized for the theme for the first time.
Forms of torture throughout the world range from beatings to rape and public sexual humiliation. Often they include the usage of specific machinery or object to inflict pain on the victims. Torture could also mean forcing someone to witness pain being inflicted on family members, such as children.
Every day, many men and women are subject to torture either in prisons, police stations, or detention centers. Those detained are likely to suffer prolonged isolation and never-ending interrogations. Basic resources, such as food and water and medical treatment are often denied for long periods of time, according to the United Nations.
"The prohibition of torture is absolute," the secretary-general said. "The Convention against Torture states unequivocally that the use of torture is illegal under any circumstances, including armed conflict, the fight against terrorism, political instability or other emergency conditions."
Yet, even though the prohibition on torture extends beyond national borders, there are still 41 countries which have not ratified the Convention against torture, allowing forms of torture and ill-treatment against prisoners and detainees.
"All 155 States that have ratified this treaty have committed to fight impunity by thoroughly investigating and prosecuting violations and bringing perpetrators, no matter their level of office, to justice. They have also accepted the obligation to provide redress to the victims and their families," Ban said, suggesting that effective remedies and rehabilitation have yet to become a reality.
Many victims of torture across the globe had been assisted through the United Nations Fund for Victims of Torture.
"The Fund is supporting projects providing vital services to victims of torture fleeing violence and persecution," he said. " Essential psycho-social assistance is being delivered to help victims of all age groups recover and regain their dignity."
In her remarks, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, declared: "Torture is an unequivocal crime .. Neither national security nor the fight against terrorism, the threat of war, or any public emergency can justify its use."
In fact, the prohibition on torture extends beyond national borders: States may not return a person to a country where she or he is at risk of being subjected to torture or other cruel or inhuman treatment.
"Furthermore, information extracted under torture may not be used in courts of law," she said, adding that this includes closed proceedings such as military courts, and hearings that the government has made private for fear they could disclose sensitive information.
"It also means that intelligence agencies may not legally use information obtained under torture. Any such use not only weakens the absolute prohibition of torture by creating a market for information obtained by such means: it also amounts to collusion in acts of barbarity," said Pillay.
Every day her Office and human rights activists receive new reports of torture in Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania. In almost all cases, those who have ordered and committed these violations escape justice, she said.
"On June 26, we in the human rights community honor the world's many victims of torture," she said. "We speak clearly and loudly so that officials everywhere will hear this message: no act of torture, or use of information extracted by torture, can be tolerated."