The protection of human rights has been prominently featured on the international agenda since the end of World War II and the creation of the United Nations in 1945. Although crimes against humanity and war crimes characterised Cold War proxy conflicts and the humanitarian crises of the 1990’s, human rights have remained the cornerstone of the international system as their promotion has never been more powerful.
The International Day In Support of Victims of Torture, on the 26th of June, commemorates the ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Torture in 1987. This landmark convention criminalised torture by recognising that its nature violated the ‘inherent dignity of the human person’. As a treaty signed 29 years ago, the tireless promotion of human rights and the abolishment of torture has been led by non-government organisations and intergovernmental organisations worldwide. This year, Amnesty International and the United Nations are spinning a positive light on the human rights issue by celebrating international progress on the struggle against torture.
Amnesty International’s focus on the eradication of torture seeks to uphold Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which states that
‘no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment’.
The UDHR is central to the work of Amnesty International, with the NGO even publishing a children’s picture book of the human rights treaty to vocalise the need to create an international norm of human rights protection. Amnesty International’s advocacy for fundamental human rights is reflected in their most recent research revealing that torture occurs in three quarters of the world and 141 countries.
Although torture continues to be an endemic issue in the current global environment, this year Amnesty International is choosing to recognise the positive changes that are incrementally advancing the condemnation of torture. The establishment of rehabilitation centres for victims has been monumental in reducing the pervasive effect of torture on both individuals and societies. Group therapy for child victims of torture has become an integral component of the rehabilitation process following the ethnic conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Amnesty International reflects the UN’s mantra of ‘horror to healing’ to emphasise the necessity of rehabilitation efforts in order to support victims and reintegrate them into their community.
Moreover, the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture is praised on the International Day In Support of Victims of Torture due to its core role in pursuing justice. Celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, the Fund assists victims of torture and their families through financing psychological, medical, social, legal and financial assistance. This year the UN Fund has facilitated 178 projects to assist over 50 000 victims, an impressive achievement that highlights significant progress on such a deeply entrenched global issue.
The International Day In Support of Victims of Torture is therefore commemorated as a day of celebration and progress this year as both the United Nations and Amnesty International reflect on their noteworthy achievements in pursuing the protection of human rights.
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