Torture is an issue of profound global concern to the entire international community. Torture destroys not only the emotional and physical wellbeing of the person but negates the inherent dignity of man. The prohibition against torture is a peremptory norm of international law. No state can justify torture under any circumstances.
The absolute prohibition against torture as a right under international law means, in simple terms that is inexcusable. This absolute ban is enshrined in the most important international and regional human rights instruments. Kenya has ratified other international human rights instruments which also outlaw torture. These include the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) whose article 5 provides that no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel inhuman treatment.
Similar provisions are outlined under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in particular under article 7 and article 5 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR). The implication for Kenya on signing and ratifying these instruments is that it obligated and not only bound but required to domesticate the provisions into its municipal laws. This is based on the recognition that these human rights instruments contain an embodiment of rights for the protection of individuals against infringement or violation in any way by the state.
As countries combat and confront the scourge of torture and related incidences of cruel and degrading treatment, it is arguable that legitimate national security needs versus public anxiety and the desire for retribution may give rise to the temptation to sacrifice certain fundamental rights. This temptation must be vigorously resisted. The right not to be tortured or mistreated is not a luxury that can be dispensed with, but the very essence of a society and worth defending.
The horrific practise of torture continues to afflict people across the globe. But a world without torture is possible. That is something we must always hold on to. We owe it to the victims and survivors of this heinous crime around the world.
A world without torture will not become a reality until we have brought healing to those who have been subjected to this appalling practice. Without healing, the effects of torture are all too likely to continue within the survivors. Each year over 100,000 survivors of torture receive treatment from IRCT member centres. But there are many more. Together, we must work to increase our reach to bring healing to the greater numbers who suffer.
In bringing about a world without torture we must work to ensure that the mechanisms are in place to prevent it from happening in future. We will take a meaningful step towards this when governments, the health and legal professions and other relevant actors are committed to ensuring that all torture survivors have access to justice. This must include children, torture’s oft-forgotten victims. While anyone can become a victim of torture, children are especially vulnerable, in particular those countless girls and boys born into poverty and conflict. In the context of war and police brutality children much too often find themselves violated at the cruel hands of a torturer.
Torture is both physical and psychological. Torturous acts may be in the form of words, physical assault and or denial of a basic need like food, water or light. The methods employed are as diverse and advanced as can be imagined. This is because, in some countries, the torture methods to be used are developed by doctors, who would know how much pain the human body can endure and the effect of such pain.