A Message to Survivors and Their Communities for 26 June
Dr. Simon Adams, CVT president and CEO
26 June is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Torture is a crime that is illegal everywhere and in all circumstances. There are no exceptions. This prohibition forms part of customary international law, which means that it is binding on every State in the world, regardless of whether that country has ratified international treaties banning torture or not. The systematic or widespread infliction of torture also constitutes a crime against humanity, which the entire international community is compelled to prevent or punish. And yet, in far too many countries, torture continues.
Around the world, torture survivors and their families will gather, along with international civil society and local human rights defenders, to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. We do so on 26 June in recognition of the historic moment in 1987 when the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, one of the key legal instruments in the fight against torture, came into effect.
As we gather, we should recall the words of the late Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations. At the first International Day commemoration in 1998, Secretary General Annan said that: “This is a day on which we pay our respects to those who have endured the unimaginable. This is an occasion for the world to speak up against the unspeakable.”
Almost a quarter century later, we should reflect on the current state of the world. If, as it is said, statistics are “just human beings with the tears wiped off,” then what should we make of the fact that there are now 100 million people around the world displaced by persecution, conflict and atrocities — a disturbingly high number of torture survivors among them? According to the United Nations, this means that there are currently more refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people than at any other moment in history. At our projects in Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Uganda and in the United States we see the suffering caused by this global human rights crisis. Today, we call on all political leaders and all governments around the world to do more to stand up for universal human rights and to protect the norms and laws that safeguard humanity.
CVT’s mandate is not just to heal the wounds of torture, but to eradicate torture worldwide. In the eight months that I have been at CVT it has been my honor to meet and talk to our staff and to survivors from around the world. I have visited our programs across the United States and met with asylum seekers sheltering on the Southern border. I was deeply moved by my visit to Jordan where our staff continue to work with survivors of torture and other extreme conflict-related trauma who come from Syria and across the Middle East region. I have admired the resilience and courage of our staff in Ethiopia who continue to work, despite a devastating civil war in their country. I have been inspired by our innovative programs in Iraq, Kenya and Uganda. Wherever CVT works, the voices of survivors are heard and our staff stand beside them on the frontlines of the struggle for healing and hope.
On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we express our deepest solidarity with, and ongoing support for, all torture survivors, their family members, and their communities throughout the world. We will continue to work with those who have endured the unimaginable. And we will continue to speak out against the unspeakable.