Today June 26th is International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. On this day we remember all the people throughout the world who have been tortured, abused and cruelly treated by governments, opposition groups and agents acting on their behalf. We offer our solidarity and support to these victims, and we remember their families and loved ones who have suffered too. As an Irish based organisation we are particularly aware of the shameful involvement of our own government in torture. By giving CIA rendition crews and the US military unimpeded access to Shannon Airport they too have undermined human dignity and violated international law.
On this date in 1987 the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force. The Convention Against Torture (CAT) as it is more generally known states that torture and all forms of inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment are absolutely and universally illegal.
In 1997 the United Nations General Assembly decided to mark this date, and designated June 26th each year as International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
Torture is a crime under international law, and cannot be justified under any circumstances. The prohibition on torture forms part of customary international law, which means that it is binding on every member of the international community, regardless of whether they have ratified the international treaties in which torture is expressly prohibited. Furthermore, the systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity.
The UN's 2011 review of Ireland's implementation of the Convention Against Torture expressed its concern at "Ireland's alleged cooperation in a rendition programme, where rendition flights use the State party’s airports and airspace". It also highlighted the inadequate response by the State with regard to investigating these allegations.
Ireland's cooperation in rendition is widely documented by organisations such as Amnesty International, Reprieve, and the Council of Europe. Aircraft being used to take people like Abu Omar, Khaled al Maqtari, Khaled el Masri and Binyam Mohamed to locations where they were cruelly and illegally tortured have passed through Shannon. Successive Irish governments have known this, and shamefully they have done nothing about it.
It is not enough therefore for Ireland to criticise other governments for their cruel and dehumanising practices. We must live up to our legal obligations and to our sense of justice by ending our own involvement in torture, and by demanding the same level of accountability from the US as from every other government around the world.
Failure to investigate torture planes passing through Shannon is complicity in torture. On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture we ask people to take a few moments to remember the people who were victims of this complicity - the people who suffered agonising years of cruelty and torture in Guantanamo, the infamous and appalling "Salt Pit" in Afghanistan, and many other secret prisons operated by the CIA and its allies. And once again we ask our government to stop supporting the torturers.
Useful Material (adapted from hrea.org)
Study Guide on Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
This guide provides a brief introduction into definitions and practices of torture, international human rights standards and strategies for prevention.
Stop torture (Amnesty International)
This booklet is part of a package of education materials produced by Amnesty International to provide teachers and educators with a generic resource that can be used to prepare lessons that assist children in understanding that torture is a violation of human rights. It is written for 10 to 12-year-old children but can be adapted as required by the teacher/educator for other age groups.
For legal professionals
Combating Torture. A Manual for Judges and Prosecutors (Conor Foley, 2003)
This manual outlines the duties and responsibilities of judges and prosecutors to prevent and investigate acts of torture and other forms of ill-treatment to ensure that those who perpetrate such acts are brought to justice and their victims are provided redress. It also provides practical advice, drawn from best practice, about how torture can be combated at a procedural level.
Guide to Jurisprudence on Torture and Ill-Treatment: Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights (Association for the Prevention of Torture)
This guide describes the jurisprudence around cases of torture and ill-treatment taken up by the European Court of Human Rights. It is intended as useful tool for pracitioners, human rights defenders and scholars.
International and regional treaties and standards on abolishing and preventing torture:
- Principles of Medical Ethics relevant to the Role of Health Personnel, particularly Physicians, in the Protection of Prisoners and Detainees against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1982)