Wednesday, June 25, 2008

June 26: International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

The Convention against Torture came into force on June 26, 1987. It was an important step in the globalization of human rights. In 1997, the United Nations General Assembly designated June 26 of each year as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the UN General Assembly's adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, "No one shall be subjected to torture."

In observance of this day, World Public Opinion released a poll of the attitudes towards torture by the citizens of nineteen nations. A majority of Americans – just barely – oppose torture unequivocally. However, 44% of Americans are tolerant of some level of torture (both limited to terrorists and unlimited), the same as Thailand and ahead only of Egypt (46%), Turkey (52%), Nigeria (54%), South Korea (51%), and India (59%).

This from World Public Opinion:
The four publics that favor an exception for terrorists when innocent lives are at risk include majorities in India (59%), Nigeria (54%), and Turkey (51%), and a plurality in Thailand (44%).

Support for the unequivocal position was highest in Spain (82%), Great Britain (82%) and France (82%), followed by Mexico (73%), China (66%), the Palestinian territories (66%), Poland (62%), Indonesia (61%), and the Ukraine (59%). In five countries either modest majorities or pluralities support a ban on all torture: Azerbaijan (54%), Egypt (54%), the United States (53%), Russia (49%), and Iran (43%). South Koreans are divided.

The poll of 19,063 respondents was conducted in 19 nations, including most of the largest countries-China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Russia--as well as Mexico, Britain, France, Poland, Spain, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Iran, Turkey, Thailand and South Korea. The nations included represent 60 percent of the world population. The survey was fielded between January 10 and May 6. Margins of error range from +/-2 to 4 percent. The primary funder of this project is the Oak Foundation.

All of the countries polled are signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and parties to the Geneva Conventions forbidding torture and other forms of abuse. All but three have also ratified the 1987 UN Convention against Torture. India has signed but not ratified the convention, while Iran has not signed it. The Palestinian territories are not eligible to be a party to the agreement.

The survey presented respondents with an argument in favor of allowing the torture of potential terrorists who threaten civilians: "Terrorists pose such an extreme threat that governments should now be allowed to use some degree of torture if it may gain information that would save innocent lives." In fourteen nations, a majority or plurality rejected this argument in favor of the unequivocal view: "Clear rules against torture should be maintained because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights standards against torture."

Those who favored an exception for terrorists were also asked whether government should generally be allowed to use torture. On average across all nations polled, just 9 percent say there should be no rules against torture. China and Turkey have the largest percentages (18% in both) who believe governments should generally be allowed to torture while France and Great Britain (4% in both) have the lowest.
You can read the release here.

1 comment:

Comrade Kevin said...

The statistics for Spain were the most surprising, but then again this is a nation who only a few hundred years ago wholeheartedly supported a very infamous Inquisition.