Torture

The aim of torture is the destruction of a person, often used for punishment, to obtain information or a confession, take revenge, or create terror and fear within a population.

Definition
Torture is the intentional and systematic infliction of severe pain or suffering – which can be physical or mental – by state officials or by any another group whom the government is unwilling or unable to stop.   Click here to view the U.N. Convention on Torture.

Who are the torturers?
The perpetrators often include the police, the military, paramilitary forces, health professionals, prison officials, death squads, government officials and opposition forces.

According to Amnesty International, there were reports of torture or ill-treatment by state officials in more than 150 countries.  In more than 70 of these countries, it was widespread or persistent, and in more than 80 of these countries, people died as a direct result of torture.

Who are the victims?
Anyone can be a victim: children and adults, men and women, religious and atheist, political and apolitical.  Often people are tortured because they are members of particular political, religious, ethnic, or social groups; are journalists, student leaders, health professionals, activists for human rights; or are family members or friends of one of these groups.

Methods
Torture can be both physical and psychological.   Physical methods include techniques such as beating, whipping, electric shocks, submersion, suspension, suffocation, burns, rape and sexual assault.   Common types of psychological torture include isolation, humiliation, threats, blindfolding, mock execution, witnessing torture of others (including family members) and being forced to torture or kill others.

The effects of torture
Torture can leave both physical and psychological wounds.  Examples of the physical consequences include persistent pain and headaches, atrophy, loss of vision and hearing, and paralysis.  Psychological symptoms include severe anxiety, depression, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which includes nightmares, memories lapses, difficulty with concentration and memory, and flashbacks.  Many victims suffer from persistent feelings of shame, guilt, hopelessness and powerlessness.

With appropriate care, many victims can overcome the trauma they have faced and rebuild their lives.

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