Strasbourg round-up: Eradication of torture in the world

Written by Kinga Gál, Leonidas Donskis and Mark Demesmaeker on 12 March 2014 in Special Report
Special Report

Kinga Gál, Leonidas Donskis and Mark Demesmaeker share their views on the outcome of parliament's vote on the eradication of torture in the world

Kinga Gál is parliament's EPP group shadow rapporteur on Eradication of torture in the world

Anyone can be a victim of torture - children or adults, religious or atheists, intellectuals or uneducated. This current report adopted by the great majority of the members of the European parliament aims at giving a common framework in the global fight against torture, so that actions of the different actors could be more coordinated and coherent, thus more efficient. The drafting process of the report was carried out in wide consensus by the different political groups.

I would like to emphasise that the report is referring in detail to the situation of children facing torture and proposes concrete actions to be taken in order to improve their protection. State governments play a major role in this regard whose action is indispensable. States should develop child-friendly justice systems that empower children not only to assert their rights, but also to report violations.

I would like to welcome furthermore that the text recommends that the European external action service (EEAS) and the European commission pay special attention to individuals belonging to other vulnerable groups such as ethnic, linguistic, religious and other minorities, as these particular groups might be exposed more often to torture.

Torture needs to be eradicated globally as "no exceptions from the absolute prohibition of torture can be justified". I hope that this current report will be another step forward in this global struggle and will positively influence EU foreign policy on this issue.

Leonidas Donskis is parliament's ALDE group shadow rapporteuron Eradication of torture in the world

No matter what we think and talk about good and evil, the problem is that as soon as we start applying the Manichean divide relegating human individuals or groups to the margins of humanity or else ascribing them to evil, yet reserving good exclusively for ourselves or those who side with us, we are at the peril of degrading other people by putting them into the category of lesser people. This is exactly where torture and other forms of the degrading of human dignity come from: namely, those who are our enemies or who pose a threat cease being human beings in our eyes - at least temporarily when we interrogate or otherwise question them not as human beings but, instead, as a source of technical information. I take this as one of the most dangerous tendencies of modern life, which threatens to disfigure and desensitise even the most democratic countries.

A criminal is not a criminal unless proven otherwise - we learn it from the presumption of innocence. Yet even a criminal or a suspect is and always remains a human being whose dignity and self-esteem can never be destroyed. This is why torture and violence in prisons, both physical and psychological, are irreconcilable with our modern moral and political sensibilities. Justice is about the restoration of human dignity and individuality, rather than their degradation and destruction.

It is precisely within this context that the resolution on the eradication of torture in the world is among the most sensitive and relevant issues addressed by the European parliament and also by all human rights defenders and NGOs that cooperate with us on it.

Mark Demesmaeker is parliament's Greens/EFA shadow rapporteuron Eradication of torture in the world

The report on the eradication of torture provides an extensive assessment of the EU's policy against torture worldwide and draws a number of pertinent recommendations for the future. The issue of torture and the strong EU commitments to fighting this global and persistent phenomenon are largely neglected in the EU's human rights policy. This report criticises the insufficient action taken by the EEAS and member states to comply with their commitments to fight torture (the EU guidelines on torture remain largely on paper), and thus comes as a timely reminder to step up EU action.

However, the main problem/weakness with this report relates to the rapporteur's obstinate aim to expand on her preferred topic of children's rights at the expense of the thematic focus and coherence of this report on torture. As a result, the report seeks, on several occasions, to dilute the universally agreed and well-defined notion of "torture and ill-treatment" (ie. severe pain intentionally exerted by a public official against an individual for a specific purpose) to cover all forms of violence, including in the private sphere - such as internet bullying and child witchcraft. International instruments and EU policy tools in the field of gender-based violence or domestic and internet violence against children are abound and do not need to additionally apply those related to torture. After the severe undermining of the legal notion of torture by the Bush leadership to justify its "global war on terror" activities, any renewed attempts to undermine the torture framework should be opposed, even if well-intended. There is a real risk of making the torture prevention framework meaningless and inoperable if the key notions of state involvement and intent are ignored. But overall, we are happy to have been able to put the important issue of the fight against torture on the European agenda.

About the author

Kinga Gál is parliament's EPP group shadow rapporteur on Eradication of torture in the world

Leonidas Donskis is parliament's ALDE group shadow rapporteuron Eradication of torture in the world

Mark Demesmaeker is parliament's Greens/EFA shadow rapporteuron Eradication of torture in the world

 

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