I think about the Inquisition, first of all, whenever the topic of torture comes up in conversation. I also sometimes think of “Chinese Water Torture”. I can’t help but wish the barbaric practice of torture would go away forever.
Unfortunately more than 120 nations still use torture to control citizens and to punish adversaries. These abusive practices don’t only happen in primitive, third world regimes, modern, industrialized states routinely employ these practices. Whether it is Uganda or the United States, the tolerance of torture degrades the nations and people of the world.
The widespread practice of abuse is one reason why there is such conditional and guarded endorsement of International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Such blatant violations of human dignity, safety, and life need first place priority in news coverage, governmental action, and meaningful individual concern. Instead, the commemoration will likely be buried in the middle of newscasts, relegated to the inside pages of newspapers, and receive polite, obligatory mention by the President or a member of the administration.
For last year’s commemoration of this event, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released this statement:
“On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we express our solidarity with, and support for, the hundreds of thousands of victims of torture and their family members throughout the world who endure such suffering. We also note the obligation of States not only to prevent torture but to provide all torture victims with effective and prompt redress, compensation and appropriate social, psychological, medical and other forms of rehabilitation. Both the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have now strongly urged States to establish and support rehabilitation centres or facilities.”
To intentionally cause pain and suffering of another person is an unconscionable act that must not be tolerated. Yet such actions happen daily in our world. Why do so many nations degrade themselves with the temptation of torture?
Perhaps, it’s because torture is one of the most efficient ways to terrorize individuals and society into passive submission to authority. The systematic application of physical, mental, and psychological torture terrorizes to the core of a person and spreads fear and terror into a culture. The end result is a psychological attitude of resignation and passivity.
Religious and political fanaticism have been the traditional, historical justification for torture since prehistoric times. Torturing individuals rarely, if ever, produces the results that are used as excuses for torture. Intelligence gathering by governments is not furthered by torture because the victim will say or do anything that will cause the torture to end. Individuals will not sincerely convert to another religion under duress. Torture is actually practiced, in most cases, for its own sake.
Torture isn’t only excused as part of the way of doing business in terms of warfare, intelligence gathering, or religious persecution. Deep inside, it is an expression of cruelty, sadism, and the lack of empathy and compassion.
The end result of torture on an individual is disappearance from society, destroyed minds and potential, emotional scarring, irreparable injury, paralyses, and oftentimes death.
If individual citizens practiced such abuse, they would rightly be punished by the courts as dangerous criminals and violators of civil behavior in society. Yet when practiced by social institutions, torture is dismissed as simply a necessary evil.
It’s urgently necessary to address this dangerous, cruel double standard. As a first step, The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It declared that all forms of inhumane, degrading physical and mental treatment, punishment and torture are absolutely and universally illegal. This ruling went into effect on June 26, 1987.
In December of 1997, Denmark proposed to the UN General Assembly that June 26th, each year, be known as International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. As world citizens, we are obliged to not deny this problem. Action must be taken against forced disappearances, summary executions, torture and other methods of cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment in order to enhance and to preserve everyone’s human rights.
The Blue Jay of Happiness notes that today is a day we pay our respects to those who have endured the horrors of unthinkable treatment. The victims of man’s inhumanity to man.