(Re-published from Jurist | June 26, 2019) June 26 is a day designated by the United Nations as International Day in support of victims of torture. The General Assembly resolution creating the date imagined this as a day stakeholders – member states and their citizens – would unite in support of those that have endured torture and cruelty and recommit to ending its scourge. As international legal experts on this matter, we are using this opportunity to remind member states of their commitments, specifically that victims have meaningful access to seek judicial redress. Access to justice is the key feature of the right to redress and is a critical part of the global fight against impunity to which we have all committed ourselves.
Article 14, of the CAT enumerates that signatories must provide in their “legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible.” Even for countries that have a strong record against torture and cruelty and enacted domestic protections against their use, this requirement to open up their legal systems to victims, has proved more challenging. Our work has been undertaken in the context of these domestic challenges, to support the legal right to redress, compensation and rehabilitation for victims.
As a former International Chief Prosecutor and a Registrar before international courts, charged with seeking justice for victims of heinous human rights abuses, we have personally witnessed the importance of and healing effect that victims derive both from judicial redress and an opportunity for adequate compensation. The impact of meaningful judicial redress on both victims and their societies’ healing and reconciliation is profound. It also acts as a powerful deterrent for future human rights abuses.
The Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program employed by the U.S. post 9-11, has seen scant judicial redress afforded to victims. Although the program was run by the U.S., many European countries, including the U.K., enrolled as junior partners. All governments involved in this shameful program have shied away from transparency and accountability, including providing victims with judicial redress options, but none has been able to completely bury their moral and legal responsibilities …
David M. Crane is a Syracuse University College of Law Distinguished Scholar in Residence.