The fight against torture is one of the long-standing policy priorities of the European Union (EU). The EU is a leading institutional actor and donor to the efforts of civil society organisations around the world in support of the fight against torture and ill-treatment. Each year on 26 June, the EU issues a declaration on the occasion of International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture.
Torture and ill-treatment rank among the most abhorrent violations of human rights and human dignity and the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is a non-negotiable obligation under international law. The prevention and eradication of all forms of torture and ill-treatment worldwide represents one of the main objectives of the EU’s human rights policy.
Adopted by the Council of the European Union in 2001 and revised in 2008, 2012 and in the process of being updated in 2017, the Guidelines to EU Policy towards third countries on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment form the basis for EU action in this field. They provide the EU with an operational tool to be used in contacts with third countries at all levels as well as in multilateral human rights fora. The EU raises indeed the issue of torture in its dialogue with third countries through call for ratification of the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and its Optional Protocol regarding prevention of torture (OPCAT), campaigns, demarches or public statements where countries take steps towards the absolute prohibition of torture. Other initiatives may include human rights reporting, raising the issue in multilateral fora, bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
The EU also works closely with civil society organisations fighting against torture. Through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the EU supports actions contributing to the absolute prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment and favours a holistic approach, encompassing prevention, rehabilitation and accountability elements. From 2007 to 2016, the EU has allocated €89,2 million to fund anti-torture projects (indicatively over 150 projects), thus becoming a leading source of funding for the rehabilitation of victims and the prevention of torture worldwide. Projects have resulted inter alia in increased awareness-raising on the Optional Protocol regarding prevention of torture(OPCAT), investigation into the supply of torture technology, the development of torture prevention and monitoring networks, support to the rehabilitation of torture victims and the fight against impunity.