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Torture -- the intentional infliction of severe mental or physical pain or suffering -- is a violation of the most basic of all human rights. Throughout history, many documents and agreements have been created to restrict or eliminate this most inhumane of all human actions. The Geneva Conventions, for example, was introduced in 1864 to ensure that prisoners and civilians are treated humanely during times of war. Article 5 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 states that, "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." The United Nations created a comprehensive legal document called the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which went into force on June 26, 1987, outlawing torture in the more than 100 countries which signed the convention. However, since then government-sanctioned torture has taken place in 150 countries, and in 70 of those countries torture by state officials was widespread.

Anyone can be a victim of torture -- soldiers, prisoners, men, women and children, young or old. Members of a particular religious, political or ethnic group are often the targets. A torture victim isn't the only one to suffer -- the whole family and community can be affected. Torture is sometimes used by one group to send a warning to other members of a different religious or political group. The pain a torture victim experiences is only the beginning -- many victims suffer psychological scars for years. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common, causing flashbacks, depression, nightmares and insomnia

Organizations like the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims help torture victims rebuild their lives with medical and psychological treatment, as well advocate for the elimination of torture around the world. There are more than 200 rehabilitation centers and programs around the world helping torture survivors. Other organizations like Amnesty International monitor torture violations around the world and help bring legal actions to stop torture.

June 26 is observed each year as the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. It is an opportunity to educate your community about the widespread presence of torture around the world. It's a chance to help urge the countries that haven't signed the Convention against torture to do so, and to ensure that countries that have never allow torture to take place.

BetterWorld Project Resources

End Torture Day - June 26



End Torture Handout - PDF
(distribute freely, with copyright notice)

Other Links

Global Activities for End Torture Day
Fact Sheets from IRCT (International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims
International Day In Support of Victims of Torture
International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims
Amnesty International
Association for the Prevention of Torture
Coalition of International NGOs against Torture
Human Rights Watch
Survivors International
Survivors of Torture International



Kofi Annan
Peter Benenson
Susan Brownmiller
Dalai Lama
Inge Genefke

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