Tomorrow, June 26, 2012 will mark twenty-five years sine the entry into force of the Convention Against Torture. The day is remembered each year as International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
SANToC, the South African No Torture Consortium in which Khulumani Support Group is a member, will commemorate the day by holding a seminar in Cape Town together with the Community Law Centre (CLC) to deliberate on the gaps in the current draft Bill on Preventing and Combating the Torture of Persons, that is coming before Parliament shortly.
The CLC explains that torture is defined in Article 1 of the Convention against Torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating orcoercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity".
Despite the absolute ban on torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under international law, forms of physical torture such as beatings, electroshock, asphyxiation, stress positions, and psychological forms of torture continue to be practiced throughout Africa and the world. Pre-trial detainees are at risk of torture because the incentives and opportunities for torture are most prevalent during the investigation stage of the criminal justice process.
United Nations' Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon has expressed solidarity with all actions focused on the creation of a world without torture and the ending of impunity for those who perpetrate torture. He explains that the purpose of torture is to destroy the sense of dignity and human worth of those targeted for torture, often with the support of repressive regimes. The focus of this year's June 26 campaign is not only to prevent torture but to provide all torture victims with effective and prompt redress, compensation and appropriate social, psychological, medical and other forms of rehabilitation. The United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have strongly urged states to establish and support rehabilitation centres or facilities.
This year's theme for the campaign is rehabilitation. The IRCT (International Rehabilitation Council on Torture) explains that " Rehabilitation empowers torture victims to resume as full a life as possible. However, rebuilding the life of someone whose dignity has been destroyed takes time and is the result of long-term material, medical, psychological and social support."
The programme for tomorrow's seminar in Cape Town is attached.