Special Rapporteur on torture: impunity threatens governmental legitimacy

Dr. Alice Edwards, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment submitted its report titled “Good practices in national criminalization, investigation, prosecution and sentencing for offences of torture to the Human Rights Council during its 52nd session taking place in Geneva.

The report for which 24 state and 34 stakeholders’ submissions were made concludes “The national duty to investigate torture is alarmingly, universally, under-implemented”.

Our input for the most recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur on torture is now available on OHCHR’s website: t.ly/tHKL Its annexe is at link: t.ly/HY9u

During her presentation to the #HRC52, Dr Edwards said,

When a state fails to defend truth and justice, it becomes an accomplice in torture. Some states wrongly perceive criminal investigations into torture as a direct attack on their legitimacy. On the contrary, what threatens their governmental legitimacy is impunity. The impediments hindering prompt and impartial investigations range from structural and institutional to legal, practical, and cultural which are set out in the report. What lies behind many of these obstacles is most usually a lack of political will. Whilst almost all states speak of their commitment to prohibiting and preventing torture, the national duty to investigate it is alarmingly, universally, under-implemented. Committing torture is hugely egregious and penalties should be duly commensurate with the gravity of the offence. I found little global consistency in the range of penalties being applied. In my view, it is time to revisit national penalties vis-à-vis crimes of torture to bring practice in line with international benchmarks.

“Despite the impressive growth in international criminal courts and tribunals and our collective commitment to those entities, their capacity to deal with the scale and scope of torture crimes being perpetrated today will never be enough,” and therefore “States must be “primary responders” in torture cases, to end impunity and bring justice on behalf of victims.” says the Special Rapporteur on torture.

The Special Rapporteur also emphasised the followings:

The ‘duty to investigate every act of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment starts with foundational legislation establishing that all acts of torture are offences under national law, and continues through stages of complaint and investigation, and concludes with either the prosecution, final judgment and sentencing of alleged offenders.

The failure of States to carry out investigations into allegations of torture and to hold perpetrators accountable can be attributed to denial, wilful obstruction, delay, scapegoating, deficient and/or underfunded procedures, barriers to victim participation, and historical patterns of torture and impunity that shape present-day tolerance of such practices and evasion of accountability.

Categories: Torture and Impunity

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