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Healthcare professionals essential for torture prevention, redress, say UN experts

For International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, UN experts stress vital role of healthcare in preventing torture

Peter Kenny   | 24.06.2022
Healthcare professionals essential for torture prevention, redress, say UN experts

GENEVA

Countries need to provide the necessary material and legal conditions to enable health personnel to assess, report, and document torture and cruel or inhumane treatment, human rights experts from the UN's three anti-torture mechanisms said on Friday.

Experts issued their statement for the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, June 26, stressing the vital functions of healthcare professionals in preventing and punishing acts of torture and supporting victims.

"Medical and healthcare professionals have a critical role to play in preventing and holding States accountable for torture and rehabilitating torture survivors," they said in the statement.

In times of armed conflict, medical staff must be protected under customary rules of international humanitarian law, said the UN groups.

Though they stopped short of naming any nations in particular, the issue has arisen in the wake of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War.

"States must ensure that all detainees have medical examinations immediately after arrest," said Suzanne Jabbour, chairperson of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture.

"Authorities also need to document and investigate torture and its sequelae to prevent its recurrence and fight impunity. It is fundamental to make perpetrators accountable for their actions and provide justice and rehabilitation to the victims."

They said that general practitioners, forensic doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, physiotherapists, and other healthcare professionals are often the first to detect signs of torture through their daily contact with patients or when certifying deaths.

"At the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, we have witnessed the life-altering and often chronic consequences of torture on survivors' mental and physical health that can be transmitted across generations," the experts said.

The joint statement was issued by the UN Committee against Torture, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, and the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.

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