Press Release

IACHR Urge States to Provide Rehabilitation to Victims of Torture

June 25, 2015

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Director
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Washington, D.C. - In the context of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, commemorated on June 26, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) observes with concern that, 30 years after the adoption of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, this practice continues in the region. The Inter-American Commission urges the States to fully comply with their international obligations with regard to the absolute prohibition of torture.

“It is of utmost concern that three decades after the Convention was adopted, the practice of torture persists in countries of the region,” said Commissioner James Cavallaro, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty. “Of equal concern is the fact that there are States that try to justify the practice of torture with arguments concerning threats to national security or concerning the need to obtain information in the context of investigations or to prevent an attack. No democratic State that is respectful of human rights may try to justify the practice of torture under any circumstance. International law establishes that the absolute prohibition of torture is an irrevocable norm,” he added.

Moreover, Rapporteur Cavallaro said, “In a democracy, it is unacceptable to simply deny the existence of the practice of torture or for authorities to make statements meant to downplay the true extent of the practice. The only appropriate reaction for a democratic State of law is to investigate all complaints or information concerning possible acts of torture, and to punish such acts in accordance with the law.”    

The IACHR calls on the OAS Member States to investigate of their own accord all reports of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, or any situation in which there are reasonable grounds to believe that an act of torture has been committed. This includes situations in which the parties accused or suspected of committing torture are agents of the State, or in which these acts may have been committed with their acquiescence, as well as situations in which those responsible are private individuals. The IACHR also urges the States to comply with the provisions established in the UN Convention against Torture and the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, in terms of incorporating into their national laws regulations that ensure that this practice is prohibited.

For her part, Commissioner Tracy Robinson, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, expressed concern over the use of sexual violence as a method of torture. “We have received alarming information concerning cases of sexual violence by State agents against persons who have been detained in the context of operations to break up protests. Sexual violence has also been used in situations involving armed conflicts, organized crime, and human trafficking. It is necessary to adopt urgent measures to address this grave problem,” she said.

This year, several organizations that work on this topic decided to focus this international day on the right to rehabilitation. The IACHR joins this global campaign, urging the States to ensure in their legal systems that victims of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment have access to a remedy that guarantees them adequate, effective, and complete reparation. This includes reparation measures that properly treat physical and also psychological afflictions, as the latter last much longer than physical injuries and directly attack people’s integrity and personhood.

“Torture dehumanizes and destroys the dignity of victims as human beings, inflicting wounds that can last forever if they do not receive proper treatment through rehabilitation. It is essential to provide access to comprehensive rehabilitation that helps to heal both the physical and the psychological effects of torture, giving victims the possibility of rebuilding their lives,” said IACHR President Rose-Marie Antoine. “Each State’s national laws should ensure reparation for victims of torture and the right to fair and adequate compensation, including measures for the most complete rehabilitation possible,” she said.

The IACHR emphasizes the need for States to strengthen their work with regional and international mechanisms for the prevention of torture and implement the orders and recommendations of oversight bodies in order to strengthen national systems for protection. Finally, three decades after the adoption of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture—on December 9*, 1985, in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia—the IACHR urges the 16 OAS Member States that have not yet done so to ratify this Convention.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 074/15

* The date of adoption of the Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture was corrected. The change was made on July 29, 2015