Torture and ill-treatment destroy a person’s dignity, body and mind. The effects are lasting, often irreversible, and devastate individuals and their families.
Torture is the deliberate infliction of severe pain or suffering on another person, whether physical or mental, to obtain information or a confession, to punish, to intimidate, humiliate or coerce. It may also be motivated by revenge, discrimination, deterrence or simple cruelty. Although universally prohibited, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment continue to be used in places of detention and during interrogation or police custody. This makes the chances of a fair trial impossible.
It may or may not be the intent to kill or injure the victim, but even where physical injury is not inflicted, torture leaves a lasting psychological impact, often lifelong. Many victims suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), experiencing symptoms such as flashbacks, severe anxiety, insomnia, nightmares and depression. Victims of torture often feel guilt and shame triggered by the humiliation they have endured.
The international community always recognises torture and ill-treatment as impermissible and in all circumstances. This prohibition is absolute and binding on all states.
Detailed safeguards and specialised institutions have been developed to tackle the circumstances in which torture occurs and to establish independent public oversight of places of detention. However, torture and ill-treatment are still widespread. The situation in individual countries may change, but globally there is no indication that the number of people tortured each year is declining.
We give guidance and undertake practical reforms to develop the capacities and status of monitoring and complaints mechanisms which prevent and address torture and ill-treatment. Recognising rehabilitation as more effective than a punitive approach can undermine the use of retributive torture. We also aim to bring about cultural and attitudinal shifts at all levels of the criminal justice system to eradicate torture.