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june 26, 1987

Signed by the UNHCR on December 10, 1984 and put into place three years later on June 26, 1987, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment marks a landmark moment for the world through how human lives are regarded and protected.

As described in the Convention, the term torture in this context means "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person" for the purpose of gathering information or punishment. However, it is crystal clear that today, more than 30 years since the signing of this Convention, torture is very much part of our lives across the world.

FairPlanet has always stood behind human rights and humane treatment of individuals the world over, and so today, on this crucial date, we look at the good as well as the bad regarding torture the world over, and share with you our coverage of the topic.

Read. Debate: Engage.

The good

The three components of prevention

What the Convention against torture across the world aims to do, and does with rigour is spread throughout what the UNHR calls three components of prevention that help keep these regulations in place.

• A legal framework that prohibits torture

• Effective implementation of this legal framework

• Mechanisms to monitor the legal framework and its implementation

The fight against torture has, for a long time, focused on the first two elements of this strategy, in particular the enactment of laws and litigation of cases, as an effective legal framework is an essential part of any programme to combat torture. However, the mere existence of laws and regulations is not sufficient to prevent torture; they also need to be properly understood and rigorously applied, with zero tolerance to impunity.

This line of action is an important indirect prevention strategy that must be complemented by other approaches to effectively address the root causes of torture.

The bad

Inhumane treatment of People Across the world is still rampant today

Despite an overwhelming majority of the world’s countries ratifying the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the use of torture is still widespread and many governments, as well as dissident groups that control territory, continue to oppress and persecute citizens to this day.

We trying to provide a wider, yet not a full overview of countries with particularly severe cases of torture and other cruel treatment.

Torture in Afghanistan is used frequently by state actors primarily to attain information regarding the Taliban or links to the Taliban. An equal number of Afghanis have also been tortured by militant groups like the Taliban for either refusing orders or refusing to join them, many of those being children.

The government response to separatism in Cameroon has been severe and oppressive. Though waves of abuse have come from both sides, separatists have equally used force against civilians perceived to be associated with the government. While citizens have been tortured for opposing the state, many people have also been tortured on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

Democratic Republic of Congo
Throughout the 18-year rule of former President Joseph Kabila, Congolese citizens exercising their rights to participate in political or human rights activism have frequently been detained and tortured by the state to silence any political opposition. The peaceful transfer of power to DRC's new President Félix Tshisekedi has to prove yet if the country's dire human rights record improves.

Under President Isaias Afewerki Eritrea political opposition has been exposed to arbitrary imprisonment and torture. Also, Eritreans, who have to serve for an indefinite period in the country's military, face treatment which has been characterised as enslavement and attempts to avoid national service has led to imprisonment and torture.

In Egypt, torture has been used routinely by successive regimes in response to any form of opposition, including peaceful protests. The current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government has used strengthened counter-terrorism laws to justify a crackdown on perceived opposition.
Apart from facing torture for their peaceful protest against the Egyptian government, the sexual orientation of people is another reason for becoming a victim.

During the authoritarian rule in Ethiopia, torture has been a frequent practice of its government. Attempts to claim a wide range of rights, such as land rights or freedoms of expression have been met with arbitrary arrests and severe restrictions. There has also been persecution against various ethnic groups, including the Oromo, which has also been the most affected by torture. Since Ethiopia's first Oromo Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018, he has released thousands of political prisoners in detention and admitted that security forces heavily relied on the use of torture and repressive laws.

In Iran, torture and other human rights abuses are used by the government to sow fear among the population, suppress political activity, force confessions and act as punishment.

The use of torture has been extensive since the US invasion and subsequent occupation in 2003. When ISIS took the state, torture was used consistently on citizens as a means of oppression and control. Since 2018, the Iraqi government has repeatedly used torture as an interrogation technique instead of carrying out proper criminal investigations.

Sri Lanka
There was hope that the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009 would suggest the end of human rights violations in the country. However, torture, in various forms continues to be widespread in the country, including ongoing torture of Tamils allegedly in a security context.

Under the 29-year long rule of President Omar al-Bashir, human rights abuses have been the norm. From 2003 on, after the Darfuri war, torture was regularly exercised under the premise of non-Arab ethnic cleansing.
Protests in early 2019 calling for Omar al-Bashir to step down led to a new torrent of oppression with government forces detaining, torturing, and killing large numbers of civilians. Many children, forced to serve as soldiers, have been victims of torture. After the deposition of Al-Bashir in a coup d'état, the military council has formed a transitional government with the main opposition coalition.

Since the beginning of the violent Syrian conflict, warring parties have continuously disregarded human rights and humanitarian law protections. Arbitrary detentions, kidnappings and torture have been widely reported on both sides.
According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, over 14,000 people have been killed under the use of torture between 2011 and 2019.

Torture has been happening in Turkey for decades, mainly to repress the Kurdish minority and the political involvement of its people.
Since the failed coup of 2016, Turkey's record on human rights has further worsened.


Under the George W. Bush administration, torture was carried out at secret prisons around the world by the CIA between 2002 and 2008 and included tactics such as waterboarding. While the government's former Vice President Dick Cheney, who suggested to restart such interrogation tactics, disagrees, the United Nations stated in January 2017 that waterboarding indeed amounted to torture.

Source: Freedom from Torture, US Senate Report on CIA Torture, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch

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