Torture: Our Legacy, Our Future

Electric shocks. Beatings. Rape. Humiliation. Mock executions. Burning. Sleep deprivation. Water torture. Long hours in contorted positions. Use of pincers, drugs, and dogs.

The very words sound like the stuff of nightmares. But every day and across every region of the world, these unimaginable horrors are the reality for countless men, women and children.

Torture is abhorrent. It is barbaric and inhumane. It can never be justified. It is wrong, self-defeating and poisons the rule of law, replacing it with terror. No one is safe when governments allow its use.

30 years ago this year the UN Convention Against Torture came into being. The Convention was groundbreaking: it offered a set of concrete steps to make the global ban on torture a reality, by establishing a set of measures, enshrined in law and specifically designed to prevent torture, punish perpetrators and ensure justice and redress to victims.

These measures intend not only to end torture and other ill-treatment nationally, but also to ensure that no-one is deported across borders to be tortured, and that there is no safe haven for perpetrators.

Since 1984, 155 states have ratified the UN Convention Against Torture, 142 of which are researched by Amnesty International. In 2014, Amnesty International observed at least 79 of these still torturing -- more than half the states party to the Convention that the organisation reports on. A further 40 UN Member States haven't adopted the Convention, although the global legal ban on torture binds them too. 

In some of these countries torture is routine and systematic. In others, Amnesty International has only documented isolated and exceptional cases. The organization finds even one case of torture or other ill-treatment totally unacceptable.