The rise of violent extremism and unprecedented levels of forced displacement in our world demand a comprehensive response – and no aspect is more urgent than assisting the many victims of rising levels of torture that these and related trends generate.
The world is rightly shocked and horrified by the treatment of innocent civilians, especially women, at the hands of violent extremists. At the same time, record numbers of people fleeing their homes risk a perilous journey that is often marred by grave violations of human rights, including torture.
On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the United Nations calls on the world to stand in solidarity with all affected people as well as their families and communities. We join our voices in a resounding cry against such abhorrent and inhumane practices.
In armed conflict, torture constitutes a war crime. When it is used in a systematic or widespread manner, it also amounts to a crime against humanity. There is an absolute prohibition on the use of torture at any time and under any circumstances under international law.
As States grapple with their response to violent extremism, it is essential to stress that torture can never be used to fight terror; in fact torture terrorizes. The use of torture is wrong from a moral point of view and wrongheaded from a strategic standpoint. Practicing torture hurts the very cause of democracy, justice and human rights that the terrorists seek to undermine, and it gives them fuel to gain new recruits.
I am committed to leading the United Nations in denouncing torture and defending human rights everywhere. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is actively engaged with partners in this effort.
Victims of torture have the right to compensation and rehabilitation. They also deserve and have the right to know the truth. That is why it is so critical to investigate instances of torture, identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
On this Day, we urge special protection for the courageous human rights defenders who put themselves at grave risk in order to shine a light on the practice of torture. And we pay tribute to the many doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists and social workers who provide hope and help to enable victims to heal and integrate back into society.
This Day is also a chance to remind States of their obligation under international law to provide redress to victims.
The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture channels vital funding to rehabilitation centres, tribunals, hospitals, refugee sites and other places assisting victims worldwide.
I thank States and private donors supporting the Fund, and I urge others to consider making a contribution at http://donatenow.ohchr.org/torture/.
I also call on States that are not party to the Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol to ratify those instruments without delay.
Let us use this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture to mobilize help for them and action to prevent future cases. Assisting the affected individuals and stopping this crime will benefit whole societies and our collective future.