Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (26 June) to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture:
Torture is always prohibited under all circumstances. It violates human dignity. Nevertheless, torture – in many different forms – is still taking place throughout the world. As the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights at the Federal Foreign Office, I am confronted time and again in my daily work with incidents and allegations of torture in many different countries and regions around the globe. I am especially worried by the recurring attempts to use security concerns to justify the targeted abuse of people. Today, on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, as well as on any other day, we must oppose this in no uncertain terms. The ban on torture is absolute, both nationally and internationally.
That is why Germany has ratified the Convention against Torture and its additional protocol and is one of the biggest donors to the UN Fund for Victims of Torture. Every year the Federal Foreign Office supports a range of projects around the world aimed at combating torture. For example, the Federal Foreign Office funds the work of Dr Margarete Osterfeld, Germany’s member of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture.
Although prevention is vitally important, we also have to deal with the consequences of torture. The effects persist, often for the rest of the victim’s life. Overcoming this suffering is an intensive and often lengthy process. Treatment centres, including those in Germany, offer torture victims safe spaces where they can receive help to come to grips with what they have experienced. Today I would like to express my special thanks and respect to all those working in this field.
Torture is illegal under international law and there are no exceptions. The 1984 UN Convention against Torture defines torture as any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person when such pain or suffering if inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. The definition does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions. It is not limited to physical violence, the deliberate infliction of psychological violence can likewise be a manifestation of torture if it reaches a certain degree of severity. Examples of such torture include sleep deprivation, the threat of force or prolonged periods of isolation.
Germany has ratified the Convention against Torture and its additional protocol and is one of the biggest donors to the UN Fund for Victims of Torture.