International Day In Support Of Victims of Torture : Speak up against the unspeakable

On June 26 each year, the international community observes a special day to focus on helping torture victims and ending torture — the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The decision to annually observe the day was taken by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 12, 1997. "The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is an occasion for the world to reaffirm that torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated," says UN secretary-general Kofi Annan in his message. "It is a day to renew our commitment to denounce such acts and seek justice for victims of torture."

Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that: "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". Yet, as stated by the secretary-general in his message for the day, "Sadly, experience shows us that torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment remain all too common in too many countries. Torture is a crime under international law. It is absolutely prohibited and cannot be justified.” Since its establishment in 1945, the UN has condemned torture and worked towards eradicating it. In December 2002, the General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which establishes a framework that will allow visits by independent international and national bodies to places where persons are deprived of liberty.

The committee against torture, composed of 10 individual experts, examine the periodic reports that states are obliged to submit and carry out confidential inquiries when torture is believed to be carried out systematically. The current Special Rapporteur on torture is Theo van Boven (The Netherlands). From December 2002 to December 2003, the Special Rapporteur transmitted 154 letters to 76 countries on behalf of torture victims and those fearing torture. Education is the pillar of the campaign to eradicate torture. United Nations technical assistance programmes help countries to establish national infrastructures for the protection and promotion of human rights, and to train public officials with responsibility for the realisation of human rights.