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What is torture?

" 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."
Article 1(1) of the International Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of 10 December 1984.

We can therefore stress that torture is an act which:

- is voluntary, "intentionally inflicted" by human beings on other human beings;
-  inflicts severe suffering, either immediately or subsequently, usually physical and always psychological, on a defenceless person, reduced to the status of an object in the hands of his torturer;
- constitutes a serious attack on a person’s physical or mental integrity. By inflicting physical suffering, anguish, terror and humiliation, brutally cutting the victim off from all compassion, disrupting the victim’s senses, overturning his cultural and religious framework, torture distorts the personality, breaking its structure and intimate integrity, so that the victim is never the same again;
- is systematic, often repeated, based on a decision, part of a programme, of an organised whole. It is not an isolated act of a person lashing out in anger, violence or fear.

Methods that are changing

Police forces that inflict torture are anxious not to leave any telltale marks behind and are therefore making use of increasingly discreet and "professional" tools, such as electric current that can be used at a distance.

Torturers are thus relieved from the burden of guilt, since they are caught up in an objective process that attenuates their responsibility. In any event they would claim that they are not torturing but merely "interrogating".

Psychologists and psychiatrists advise prison authorities on what will have the greatest effect on prisoners’ minds: isolation, the manipulation of light, physiological rhythms, emotions and senses, the administration of drugs, etc.

Torturers trained

Torturers are not always sadists or madmen. They are often ordinary people who have been manipulated. The testimony of ex-torturers has made it possible to identify four stages used in all torture schools (sadly they exist) for training in ’interrogation techniques’.
First, candidates’ personal qualities are shown to advantage in tests of endurance and strength that reveal ideal masculine qualities; they belong to the elect.
They are then set useless or humiliating tasks that destroy any feelings of humanity. To survive this destructive stage candidates must summon up their physical resources and accept meaningless orders as imperatives. The next stage is to carry out difficult but non-humiliating tasks, once again associated with the values of endurance and pride. During this rehabilitation phase they learn to despise the uninitiated, who are excluded from the human family.
A final phase binds them in a web of secrecy and teaches them that they are above the law. They can then take part in their first sessions as torturers.

The CINAT - Coalition of International NGOs Against Torture

FIACAT is a member of the Coalition of International NGOs against Torture (CINAT) since its creation in 1999.

In order to effectively tackle this persistent problem, the CINAT works to strengthen the global movement against torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
It brings together 7 NGOs, which work in different yet complementary ways: in preventing these forms of abuse; bringing the perpetrators to account; providing rehabilitation and obtaining justice and reparation for survivors.

For further information :
- International Day against torture, the 26th June’s Day

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