What is Torture?

  • Torture is an act which intentionally causes physical or mental pain or suffering.

  • Its objectives may include obtaining information or a confession, punishment or intimidation.

  • The perpetrator of torture is a state agent, or another person under the instigation of the former.

The United Nations 1984 Convention gives the following official definition of torture:

csc_0088-2“Torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person, has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions”
For more information, follow this link to a presentation on the concept of torture and the difficulties of defining it (only available in Spanish): El Concepto de la Tortura
Or visit the website of one of our affiliated organisations: International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims: http://www.irct.org/ 

 What is state violence?

  • Violence – the deliberate use of force to achieve an end. State violence has the aim of achieving some kind of political objectivedsc_0405
  • State violence is legitimate and legal (and because of this state violence can be distinguished from criminal violence)
  • The victims are civilians
The state, when it guarantees wellbeing, justice and safety of its civilians, has a civilising function. When the government murders, tortures, wounds or maltreats any person, it abuses its power, and its civilising function is thus distorted by barbaric practices.
State violence and state terrorism are conscious, elaborate and deliberate human acts. They seek to damage human beings through the actions of other human beings, who are part of a power structure.
To learn more, read the following document by Emma Bolshia Bravo Cladera (only available in Spanish): Violencia Estatal

Why should we care about torture?

Torture is a profound concern of the world community. Its purpose is to destroy deliberately not only the physical and emotional well-being of individuals but also, in some instances, the dignity and will of entire communities. It concerns all members of the human family because it impugns the very meaning of our existence and our hopes for a brighter future.