Vancouver forum aims spotlight on torture around the world

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      An Amnesty International report minces no words about torture.

      “It is barbaric and inhumane. It can never be justified. It is wrong, self-defeating and poisons the rule of law, replacing it with terror. No one is safe when governments allow its use,” according to Torture in 2014: 30 Years of Broken Promises.

      The release of the 50-page paper last month was part of the human rights organization’s new global campaign against torture.

      Even though the international Convention Against Torture was adopted by the United Nations in 1984, Amnesty International notes that “torture is flourishing”.

      Torture occurs in “at least three quarters of the world’s countries”, the report states.

      “Between January 2009 and May 2013, Amnesty International received reports of torture and other ill-treatment committed by state officials in 141 countries, and from every world region,” according to the report.

      Thursday (June 26) marks the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. On that day, a forum will be held at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library (350 West Georgia Street) on the impact of this horrible practice. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

      The event is being organized by Amnesty International, the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture, and the Canadian Centre for International Justice.

      Speakers include Victor Porter, a political prisoner during the former military dictatorship in Argentina; Mariana Martinez Vieyra, a clinical counsellor who works with survivors of torture and political violence; and James Stewart, a UBC assistant professor of law. Shayna Plaut, a UBC doctoral candidate with a background in human rights leadership, will be the moderator.

      Vancouver-based Amnesty International coordinator Don Wright says impunity is a major reason why torture occurs on a global scale.

      “Governments feel they can get away with it,” Wright told the Straight in a phone interview.

      Torture is used not only to extract information from victims. It’s also a tool to punish and intimidate dissenters.

      Wright said: “Police and military forces are using it quite frequently in terms of punishments or in order to silence communities.”