Today at the Grand Canal Dock in Dublin, Amnesty International activists spelled out ‘NOT ALONE – NEVER FORGOTTEN’ on the MacMahon Bridge and by the Grand Canal to mark International Day In Support of Victims of Torture. For decades, Amnesty has exposed governments who torture and supports torture survivors in their quest for justice.
Torture is illegal yet Governments from the US, to the Philippines to Mexico to Uzbekistan still carry out this practice with impunity. Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said:
“Torture as practiced by states is unfortunately widespread practice throughout the world. From President Obama’s admission that ‘we tortured some folks’ to the ‘Wheels of Torture’ Amnesty International found in police stations in the Philippines we know that laws alone are not enough. Governments need to be called out when they torture their citizens.
Amnesty International is building a powerful barrier between the torturer and the tortured. We insist that lawyers are present during interrogations and that doctors are on hand to examine detainees. We work to ensure confessions obtained by torture can’t be used as evidence in courts, that detainees are allowed to see their families and those who carried out torture are brought to justice.
Our activism and advocacy during our current Stop Torture campaign has had some real successes. Moses Akatugba was tortured in Nigeria and sentenced to death for allegedly stealing mobile phones. Amnesty took on his case and earlier this year Moses was pardoned by the Nigerian Delta State Governor. Claudia Medina was tortured in Mexico and this year all charges against her were dropped. Angel Cólon was tortured and imprisoned in Mexico and last year he was released and all charges against him dropped. Raising public awareness and fighting for justice for torture victims can have its good news days.
We have added new cases to our fight against torture and will continue our campaign to stamp out torture all over the world. Amnesty will continue to support victims of torture until the practice is no more”
Successes of the Stop Torture Campaign
In 2005, Moses Akatugba was accused of stealing three mobile phones at the age of 16 and is sentenced to death by a Nigerian court in 2013. Eight hundred thousand Amnesty activists take action through the Stop Torture ‘Write for Rights’ campaign and Moses is pardoned by Nigerian Governor Udaghan in 2015.
Claudia Medina Tamariz woke up at 3am on 7 August 2012 to find that marines had broken into her home in Veracruz City, Mexico. They tied her hands, blindfolded her and took her to the local naval base where she was given electric shocks, beaten and kicked. She was forced to sign a confession that she was not allowed to read. It would be three years before the last of the unfounded charges against her would be dropped, thanks to the 300,000 Amnesty members worldwide that took action.
Public transport driver Jerryme Corre suffered shocking torture at the hands of police in the Philippines, after they accused him of killing a police officer. They blindfolded him, handcuffed his ankles, and beat him throughout the night, hitting the soles of his feet with a wooden baton. They put a cloth over his mouth and poured water down his throat “until I felt like I was drowning”. Later, when he still refused to confess, they took exposed electric wires and electrocuted him on his back, side and thighs. Tens of thousands urged police to investigate the torture of Jerryme Corre resulting in an inquiry by the Philippine Senate which found that found that police had tortured hundreds of detainees without impunity.
In July 2012, Yecenia Armenta was tortured for 15 hours, hung upside down naked, beaten and raped in Mexico. She was subsequently forced to sign a confession while blindfolded while the medics who examined her worked for the same office as her torturers and failed to properly record her injuries. Yecenia remains in jail after three years.
In Morocco, Wafae Charaf (27) and Oussama Housne (22) attended different protests in April 2014 where they criticised the use of torture within the state. They were arrested, tortured and charged for falsely reporting torture by the Moroccan security forces and engaging in unfounded slander of the police. Wafae is serving two years in prison and Oussama is serving three years.
Muhammad Mekzhanov is an Uzbekistani reporter who is one of the world’s longest imprisoned journalists, he was the former editor of the banned opposition newspaper Erk. At his trial, the court ignored him when he said that he had been tortured into making a confession. He has been in jail for 19 years.
Mahmoud Hussein is a 19-year-old student languishing in an Egyptian jail for wearing a “Nation Without Torture” t-shirt and a scarf marking the “25 January Revolution”. He was arrested on his way home from a protest against military rule and the Muslim Brotherhood more than 500 days ago, and has not been charged or tried for any offences. He has been tortured and ill-treated in detention and forced into signing a confession.
In 2012, a young bakery worker named Dave Enriquez was accused of stealing two roosters in the Philippines. Four policemen took turns to beat him with a wooden paddle, pound his fingers with a stapler and bang his head against the metal gate of his cell. He suffers from learning disabilities and was not permitted to contact his family or a lawyer. To this day, no one has been held responsible for his torture.