The path towards survival |
By Kay Danes
March 26, 2004
For a victim of torture it is often a slow and painfully difficult journey towards the path of survival. Many survive literally, but may spend a lifetime wishing they had not. Some struggle daily, remembering those agonizing moments now etched in their deepest memories. Others kill themselves years later.
Anyone researching torture and its effects before the nineteenth century would have found it pretty easy work since many countries openly practiced torture as an official policy. These days however, torture is an unacceptable action that brings shame to those states found to be engaging in it. But sadly, shame is not enough of a deterrent and governments simply practice torture behind elaborate charades of secrecy, denial, sovereignty and hypocrisy.
Torture is now referred to as 'interrogation', 'intensive therapy' or 'persuasion'. Confessions signed under torture or as some prefer, 'duress', are encouraged through 'cooperation with authorities' and considered 'not quite torture'.
Across the century we see torture everywhere - in the routine use of beatings and prolonged solitary confinement or when governments are 'defending national security' or 'fighting terrorism'. If we deny that these tortures exist, even in the mildest forms or justify their use discriminately, then we stand to face terrible consequences. We risk becoming a society of ignorance and close our eyes and our minds to the reality of human suffering. We turn away from those suffering torture. We consider it 'necessary' and 'acceptable' that people are placed in solitary confinement for long periods of time, their basic human rights denied. We isolate them, dehumanize them and we accept the rejection of their experiences. Public denial means there is no justice for the victims, no accountability for those responsible for these crimes, and the increased likelihood that new torture regimes will appear. This is why the continuing struggles for truth and justice are so critical, particularly but not solely, in countries that are governed by totalitarian regimes, such as in Laos, Burma and in countries of South America.
To stop torture we must name it for what it is, wherever and whenever it occurs. Expose it and deny it its hiding places. Torture doesn't just affect prisoners of conscience and human-rights defenders, it also targets criminals, members of discriminated-against ethnic groups, lesbians and gays, the socially disadvantaged and those unfortunates who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Whatever the stated aims of torture might be, the real reason torture is used is to murder the spirit.
Association for Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors, |
3rd Floor, Bon Marche Arcade,
80 Barrack Street, Perth WA 6000;
Tel: +61 8 9325 6272;
Fax: +61 8 9221 5092;