The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) and its Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa (CPTA), on the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, reiterate the importance of full redress for victims of torture, and take this opportunity to call upon African States and non-State actors to fulfil their responsibilities to that end, as is reflected in the Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa (the Robben Island Guidelines).
In the period between June 2013 and June 2014, the systemic use of torture by law-enforcement agencies, security forces, armed groups and other private actors, has remained widespread, with multiple cases of torture reported in various African countries. The prevalence of acts of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment persists during crackdowns on public protests, uprisings and coup d’etats.
Victims of torture are primarily members of opposition political parties or movements, human rights defenders, protestors, including peaceful protestors, detainees, prisoners, persons suspected of terrorism, persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, as well as refugees and asylum seekers.
Torture continues to be used as a means of obtaining confessions or information, in investigations and as a way of repressing, punishing and terrorising victims.
Credible reports and allegations of incidences that may amount to torture or ill-treatment that have come to the attention of the CPTA between June 2013 and June 2014, concern countries such as Angola, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ghana, The Gambia, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Progress has been made in certain areas too. Two countries signed or ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) or its Optional Protocol (OP-CAT).
Domestication of CAT and OP-CAT has also proceeded in a number of countries. The CPTA has also noted with appreciation some significant judicial decisions which have been made by some national and sub-regional courts advancing protection against torture and ill-treatment.
Some States have also taken important policy, capacity-building and awareness-raising actions to support prohibition of torture and ill-treatment.
The Commission and CPTA note and commend the positive measures taken by both State and non-State actors to prevent torture or ill-treatment in Africa, as well as the continued efforts to ensure full redress to victims.
However, torture continues to be a real problem, and any person, man or woman, young or old, person with disability or not, is a potential victim.
The CPTA calls on all actors to respect their commitments to ensure that perpetrators of torture are held accountable. Those responsible for acts of torture should be subject to legal proceedings, as part of ensuring justice to victims of torture.
African States are reminded that they have an enduring solemn duty to respect fundamental human rights and the rule of law. The CPTA reiterates that torture or ill-treatment amounts to egregious human rights violations.
States should take positive steps to ensure that mental health institutions do not remain hotbeds for the perpetration of torture and ill-treatment on persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities.
States should take legislative and administrative measures prohibiting and punishing all forms of violence, including violence targeting persons on the basis of their imputed or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.
States that are not parties to the Convention Against Torture and its Optional Protocol, and States that have not domesticated these instruments, are urged to consider doing so with expedition.
States that have instituted truth and reconciliation processes should facilitate those initiatives to undertake their tasks effectively so that they may advance protection of victims of torture and ill-treatment by collecting testimonies, conducting investigations, holding public hearings, and publishing reports that include findings and recommendations.
Finally, States are called upon to take concrete steps to respect their commitments with regard to the right of victims to an effective remedy for the human rights violations suffered as a result of torture and ill-treatment, as well as the right to full redress. In this regard, States should ensure that victims of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, witnesses, those conducting investigations, other human rights defenders and families are protected from violence, threats of violence or any other form of intimidation or reprisal. Further, States should offer reparation to victims, including family members, irrespective of whether a successful criminal prosecution can or has been brought, including appropriate medical care, social and medical rehabilitation, as well as compensation and other support.
Every day should be dedicated to ending the culture of torture and strengthening support to victims of torture.