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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture Statement – 26 June 2015

  • ACHPR Session

On the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), through its Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa (CPTA), joinsworld actors in marking this day to support victims of torture, and to reiterate its call for concerted efforts to ensure that torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment becomes a matter of the past.

Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter) provides that ‘Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitation and degradation of man, particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited.’

The Commission wishes to reiterate that no person should be subjected to acts of torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.Torturing a human being is an affront to human dignity and states must not derogate from their duty to ensure that people are protected from torture.

35 years after the adoption of the African Charter, the use of torture and ill-treatment in Africapersists in violation of Article 5 of the Charter and the Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa (the Robben Island Guidelines).Perpetrators of torture include law-enforcement and security forces and, sometimes armed militia groups, private actors, or terrorist groups such as Al-Shabab, Boko Haram and ISIS.  Torture is inflicted ondissidents of incumbent regimes, members of opposition political parties or movements, demonstrators, alleged suspects of terrorism, human rights activists, detainees, prisoners, as well as ordinary civilians. Non-State actors have perpetrated acts which amount to torture or ill-treatment, including abductions, shootings and bombings.

What more can be done to ensure that victims of torture have proper recourse?

All victims of torture must obtain redress including effective remedy and reparation. Reparation components include restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.

The Robben Island Guidelinesrequire States to ensure that all victims of torture and their dependants are offered appropriate medical care, have access to appropriate social and medical rehabilitation and are provided with appropriate levels of compensation and support.This requirement was most recently reiterated in ACHPR/Res.303 (LVI) 2015 - Resolution on the Right to Rehabilitation for Victims of Torture, which was adopted by the Commission at its 56th Ordinary Session, held from 21 April to 7 May 2015, in Banjul, The Gambia.

The Commission realises that redress for victims of torture is an area that requires further clarificationsince the Continent’s instruments on torture do not comprehensively set out and clarify operation of the right to adequate reparation.

Consequently, the CPTA is developing a General Comment on Victims’ Right to Redress under Article 5 of the African Charter, to assist State Parties and other stakeholders meet their obligations in that regard.

The General Comment will provide further guidance on the scope and content of the right to redress for victims of torture in line with developments under international law and practice. Guidance on the importance of the right to redress and what it means in practice will help those working with victims of torture and State officials to better understand the measures to be implemented at the domestic level.

As part of the drafting process, the CPTA with its partners is organising the firstTechnical Meeting on Drafting a General Comment on Victims’ Right to Redress under Article 5 of the African Charter, in Accra, Ghana, from 6 to 7 July 2015. The CPTA anticipates that the General Comment will be finalised in 2016 following adoption by the Commission.