Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (26 June):
Today, on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we speak out on behalf of all victims of torture and their relatives. Torture violates human dignity, brutalises a society and sparks new conflicts. That is why the international ban on torture applies without exception at all times and in all places. Nevertheless, countless numbers of people are forced to endure torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in various parts of the world.
We continue to be compelled to demand that they adhere to the ban on torture under all circumstances. All countries have a duty to prevent torture, to support the victims of torture and to hold the perpetrators to account in the courts. To this end, the work of the International Criminal Court, international investigative mechanisms and national courts such as Koblenz Higher Regional Court, which is currently holding a trial on torture in Syria, are crucial.
I would expressly like to thank all of the human rights defenders who fight against torture, in some cases at considerable personal risk. We support this work through concrete projects aimed at providing prisoners with better protection.
Torture is illegal under international law and there are no exceptions. The 1984 UN Convention against Torture, which has been ratified by 170 countries, 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 is 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. 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 solitary confinement.
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. Germany also supports concrete torture-prevention projects by NGOs.