26th of June: International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

Since 1997, on the 26th of June every year the international community celebrates the Day in Support of Victims of Torture to call on stakeholders and civilians to unite in support of people who have been victims of torture.

Torture is a crime under international law as it is one of the most serious human right violations. Torture is absolutely prohibited and therefore cannot be justified under any circumstances. Despite this, even nowadays torture and other forms of ill-treatment still occur in many parts of the world. When we think of torture, we shouldn’t forget instances of state violations and ill treatment by figures of authorities such as police officers or prison guards. In a report from 2019, it was found that one in nine of the state violations found by the Strasbourg court was torture or degrading treatment.

On the 23rd of June the Joint EU-Council of Europe project “European Union and Council of Europe working together to strengthen the Ombudsperson’s capacity to protect human rights” took place in Kyiv in order to raise awareness of the need to developing a state policy in the field of combating torture and focusing on the rehabilitation of victims in Ukraine as well. An analytical report “Mechanism for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture in Ukraine” was presented which includes recommendations on how to protect and rehabilitate victims of torture.

In another part of the world, in Africa, Zimbabwe is one of those few countries who have not ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Interestingly, out of the fifty-five countries in Africa, only two, Tanzania and Zimbabwe are countries that have not signed or ratified the Convention.

Thandekile Moyo, a Zimbabwean human rights activist wrote an article about her family’s experience of Gukurahundi, a series of massacres carried out by the Zimbabwe National Army in the 1980s. She mentions a village, Bhalagwe, where the largest concentration camp was set up during the genocide. The government destroyed the structures at the site, to try and hide any evidence of what happened. In Thandekile’s words: “The methods of torture were so dehumanising that they caused great suffering and so much shame that many victims…are to this day unable to narrate their experiences.”.

In May 2021, there was a memorial service organised in Bhalagwe and a new plaque was erected in memory of the victims. However, the next day the plaque was missing and the villagers claim that the police are responsible for destroying it, once again victimising the whole community and “refusing to allow people to memorialise or grieve their losses”.

28.06.2021. Laura Schmidt

Image: pixabay.com