Governments must protect those who help torture victims, say human rights experts

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Top UN rights experts appealed on Thursday for all governments to ensure that victims of torture receive the rehabilitation services they need, along with guarantees that those who help them do not suffer reprisals.

In a statement to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on Saturday, three Human Rights Council-appointed independent experts insisted that “people who have endured the ordeal of torture…have an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation”, including rehabilitation. 

Follow the Convention 

They upheld that the Convention against Torture (CAT) provides for reparations for blatant human rights violations and to restore dignity. 

“It is particularly important that Governments respect and uphold the right to redress”, they said, adding that authorities should ensure that medical and other professionals who treat victims of torture, can carry out their work unhindered. 

The same guarantees should also be given to civil society organizations and rights defenders so that they can carry out the vital work of documenting torture and supporting the rehabilitation of victims, the rights experts said. 

The term “rehabilitation” includes adequate medical psychological, social and other relevant specialized treatment. 

Combat reprisals  

The UN experts warned in 2012 that victims of torture face reprisals for complaining or cooperating with the UN.  

“Since then the trend of reported reprisals and severity against individuals and groups specifically for engaging with the UN has increased”, they attested.    

CAT, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the Special Rapporteur on Torture have all adopted measures to address retaliation and reprisals against civil society organizations combatting torture and helping victims. 

‘Vital’ civic space 

Last year, Secretary-General António Guterres adopted a Call to Action for Human Rights that makes civic space a priority area and issued the UN Guidance Note: Protection and Promotion of Civic Space

In their statement, the experts advocated for civic space as “vital” in preventing and combatting torture and safeguarding the rights of those who have been persecuted and ill-treated. 

“We urge States to uphold the absolute and universal prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to enable a conducive environment for redress and rehabilitation for victims of torture, and for civil society to operate freely”, they said. 

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. They are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work. 

Click here for the names of the three experts.

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