International Day in Support of Victims of Torture: Statement by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell

The torture of human beings has no place in the 21st century. On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the European Union reaffirms its strong commitment to combating torture worldwide, in all its forms, contexts and settings.

The restrictions and lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic have led to higher levels of human rights violations and abuses in both the public and domestic spheres, including increased violence, arbitrary arrests and detentions, physical attacks and psychological trauma for many human beings.

Respect for human rights and human dignity must continue to shape our response to the ongoing global pandemic. Torture and other ill-treatment in places of detention continue, despite the efforts from many governments to reduce the number of detainees in times of health crisis. Supporting the improvement of detention conditions and treatment of persons deprived of their liberty, in line with international standards and obligations, is a priority of the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024, our renewed external policy framework in this field.

Impunity for acts of torture and other ill-treatment must end. Accountability for perpetrators, effective justice systems and redress for victims are crucial. We will not shy away from condemning acts of torture and other ill-treatment worldwide and support independent investigations of serious human rights violations and abuses wherever they occur. Evidence collection, documentation of cases of torture and other ill-treatment, accountability and justice are important steps for the realisation of victims’ rights.

The EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime signals the EU’s determination to stand up for human rights and to take decisive, tangible action against those responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses, such as torture and other ill-treatment.

We will continue to engage at bilateral, regional and multilateral level, in particular with the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the International Criminal Court, and through our support to civil society organisations and human rights defenders. The EU has dedicated more than EUR 100 million over the last decade to anti-torture efforts and will maintain high levels of engagement and support to upholding human dignity.

Initiatives, such as the Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering (link is external), provide guidance on obtaining accurate and reliable information in full respect of human rights and dignity of all, including through the implementation of legal and procedural safeguards in the first hours of police custody.

The need for strong and effective collective action to regulate trade in goods used for the death penalty, torture and other ill-treatment is also more vital than ever. The EU encourages all States to step up efforts towards establishing common international standards in this field and to join the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade (link is external).

A torture-free world for all is a global challenge, but joint action can make a difference. Together we can make it happen. We owe it to the victims of torture and to their families.