The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (the Commission), through its Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa (CPTA), joins the international community in marking 26 June, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This commemoration is of particular interest to CPTA, which has chosen “Reparation for Victims of Torture” as the theme for its work in 2022. Indeed, the consequences of acts of torture are numerous and devastating. As a result, many victims do not have access to the comprehensive reparation mechanisms established by stakeholders to address the repercussions of human rights violations.
It is therefore essential for the CPTA to understand the process and effects of torture on its victims with the view to putting in place a set of strategies and programmes specifically designed to provide them with the particular redress they need to approach a return to the quo ante.
The CPTA emphasises the paramount need for reparation for victims of torture whenever it is seized of typical cases. The CPTA has also included the issue of reparation in its process of formulating Rules for the Establishment and Functioning of the Alert Mechanism and Reporting to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights on Situations of Torture. Indeed, by requiring that the consequences of acts of torture be described on the CPTA’s referral form, the latter anticipates the appropriate reparation measures to be obtained from the State and all other stakeholders for the benefit of the victim, since reparation is a right for the latter.
The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is the anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) on 26 June. As the main international legal instrument guiding and regulating national legislation and the action of international and sub-regional organisations in the prohibition of torture and the fight against its devastating effects on victims, it is crucial to advocate for the completion of the continental ratification of this important instrument beyond the 52 African States that are parties to it, to date.
The CPTA is marking this day by organising a webinar to reveal and discuss the impact of torture on specific vulnerable categories such as IDPs, girls and women. This will enable us to measure the extent of the effects of torture on these people and to develop appropriate remedial measures. It will also recall all the preventive measures with the view to avoiding at all costs the occurrence of torture as it is a crime absolutely forbidden in International Law.
Thus, Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, which regulates this absolute prohibition of torture at the African continental level, must be at the heart of all State actions in all circumstances in order to avoid invoking any specific situation to derogate from it, as is unfortunately the case with the Covid pandemic, the fight against terrorism and other circumstances where stakeholders fail to maintain the jus cogens nature of the absolute prohibition of torture.
Finally, it is important to be optimistic that States and stakeholders will continue to uphold, and not question, the absolute nature of the prohibition of torture and the obligation to provide reparation as established by international practice and the robust legal frameworks put in place to this end. It is a matter of continuing to work for the strict and systematic application of this mechanism by placing at the heart of all actions the need to restore victims as much as possible to their situation before the occurrence of acts of torture to their detriment, if not in a better situation.