On June 26th, IMLU joined the rest the world in commemorating United Nations (UN) International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This year’s them was: ‘support life after torture.’
According to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the term ‘torture’ means 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 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 or coercing 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. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”
Torture seeks to annihilate the victim’s personality and denies the human being’s inherent dignity. Despite the absolute prohibition of torture under international law, torture persists in all world regions. Concerns about protecting national security and borders are increasingly used to allow torture and other forms of cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment. Its pervasive consequences often go beyond the isolated act on an individual and can be transmitted through generations and lead to cycles of violence.
This prohibition forms part of customary international law, which means that it is binding on every member of the international community, regardless of whether a State has ratified international treaties in which torture is expressly prohibited. The systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity. 26 June is an opportunity to call on all stakeholders, including the UN Member States, civil society and individuals everywhere, to unite in support of the hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who have been victims of torture and those still tortured today.
Even though Kenya is a signatory to numerous international and regional human rights treaties and conventions, torture and ill-treatment are still rife in Kenya. It happens mainly in the context of security operations and other counter-terrorism measures. On a positive note, Kenya enacted the Victims Protection Act in 2014, establishing a legislative framework for supporting victims of crime in general, including victims of torture during the court process and after that. The act provides for different forms of reparations that victims of torture and their families can access, such as rehabilitation and compensation. It also created the National Victims Fund, which is to be used for supporting victims of torture.
In commemorating UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we called upon all stakeholders that included UN member states, civil society organizations and individuals everywhere to unite in support of the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have been victims of torture and those who are still tortured today.
We observed the day in solidarity with the over 4000 victims of torture and also as a way of increasing awareness for state responsibility in prevention and response to torture especially rehabilitation services and holding the perpetrators accountable for their actions.