On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we honor and support victims and survivors throughout the world. We observe this day on the anniversary of the date on which the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into effect; 166 countries including the United States have since ratified the Convention. The United States is committed to using all available tools to promote accountability for those who engage in these practices, which can destroy the lives of victims. Sadly, we continue to receive reports of torture from across the globe.
The Iranian regime employs a wide range of officially and unofficially sanctioned torture to repress and punish members of its population. Officially sanctioned forms of torture include flogging, blinding, stoning, and amputation. Unofficially, Iranian officials have also inflicted torture through sexual violence, which we condemn in the strongest terms.
In the People’s Republic of China, more than a million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other predominantly Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang have been arbitrarily detained in internment camps, where many report torture. The North Korean regime also continues to employ torture as a standard practice in its detention facilities, particularly against defectors—including children—forcibly returned from abroad.
We additionally condemn the Assad regime’s campaign of arbitrary detention and torture, and we continue to demand the immediate release of all wrongfully and arbitrarily detained persons, including Syrian women and children, whose only crime was to call for reform and change. Moreover, we renew our calls for Russian federal authorities to end impunity for reported arbitrary detention and torture in the Chechen Republic.
We similarly call on the regimes of Nicaragua and Cuba and the illegitimate Maduro regime in Venezuela to refrain from using torture to silence dissent and to cease authoritarian repression of human rights and fundamental freedoms. We all remember that a year ago, High Commissioner Bachelet was in Venezuela, attempting to investigate brutal acts of torture against Venezuelans. Days later, Captain Acosta Arevalo died because of the vicious acts of torture committed against him.
In addition, the Government of Zimbabwe employs state-sponsored violence to repress its population. This includes reported abductions and torture to repress civil society, including labor leaders and opposition figures. We are particularly alarmed by the recent abduction, abuse, and sexual assault of three female opposition leaders – Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova – while participating in a peaceful demonstration. They remain in jail, where they have been denied bail.
These countries are only a few examples of the many governments around the world that continue to use torture to silence dissent, coerce confessions, and extract extrajudicial punishment, actions which are antithetical to the rule of law. On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we call on all governments to act to prevent torture, to provide compensation and rehabilitation for survivors of torture, and to bring those who engage in torture to justice.