Freedom from Torture - Where does torture happen?

Where does torture happen?

Films, TV and the news often present torture in the context of life and death security situations, but the reality is often very different.

In many countries ordinary people also face torture for daring to take part in peaceful political activities, such as a demonstrating or leafleting, or because their relative or friend has done these things.

At Freedom from Torture we treat survivors of torture who seek refuge in the UK from many different countries all fleeing the physical and psychological torture inflicted upon them by their own governments or by groups such as Boko Haram or Daesh.

In 2015 we received 1550 referrals from 81 countries. Below are the top ten countries - they represent just some of the many countries around the world where torture is happening.

1. Sri Lanka - 326 referrals

Torture and other human rights abuses were carried out by both sides in the Sri Lankan civil war. The war ended in May, 2009, with the defeat of the militant separatist group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

However, the end of the war has not seen the end of torture. Our report 'Tainted Peace' documents 148 cases of torture perpetrated since the end of the civil war by police, security and intelligence services. These cases mainly involve Tamils suspected of real or perceived association with the LTTE and this number has continued to grow.

The government of Sri Lanka is currently carrying out a consultation process on a variety of justice and reconciliation measures to build sustainable peace across the country. Our evidence demonstrates the need for further action by the government of Sri Lanka to dismantle the torture machinery which ruins lives and undermines efforts to secure peace and reconciliation.

2. Iran - 158 referrals

Journalists, human rights activists and dissenters are among those at risk of detention in Iran, which often involves torture and other inhumane treatment, so as to force 'confessions'.

Our 2013 report “We will make you regret everything” looked at torture linked to the 2009 Iranian presidential elections. Our research highlights the brutal methods used by the Iranian authorities to terrorise people and their family members engaged in political activity and in the protests relating to the disputed election outcome and the human rights abuses that followed.

As Iran re-establishes relations with many countries including the UK and USA, it is important these and other countries make sure they keep a spotlight on Iran’s use of torture and pressure on Iran to end it.

3. Pakistan - 133 referrals

Pakistan has frequently used torture in prisons and police stations including as a means to extract confessions, against a backdrop of ethnic, religious and political unrest.

Enforced 'disappearances' continue to be carried out by Pakistani security forces engaged in counter-terrorism operations, and Amnesty International has reported bodies being discovered with marks of torture.

4. Democratic Republic of Congo Referrals - 84 referrals

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has faced more than a decade of unrest. The war ended in 2003 but the country still struggles with violence from armed groups, political instability and poverty. Reports of repression, detention and torture are common in DRC.

Rape and sexual violence have been extensively used to terrorise communities and as a method of torture. Our 2014 report “Rape as Torture in the DRC” highlights the torture of women by state security services. These women were detained mostly for political reasons in mainly non-conflict contexts including for attending demonstrations.

5. Turkey - 75 referrals

Political prisoners in Turkey, particularly those are who or are believed to be affiliated to the banned Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), are frequently subjected to torture and other human rights abuses.

According to Amnesty International, in 2015, "reported cases of ill-treatment in detention and other inhuman or degrading treatment in the context of police or military operations against the PKK increased."

These reports should be cause for a renewed focus on Turkey’s human rights record, particularly as the EU has recently made a controversial deal with Turkey to stop refugees and migrants travelling to the EU.

6. Afghanistan - 70 referrals

A 2015 UN report found that though torture carried out by Afghanistan's government had decreased, "many Afghan security and police officials interviewed appeared not to accept that torture is illegal and saw it as a proper tool to obtain valuable intelligence information." Methods of torture mentioned in the report include beatings with pipes, suspension, electric shocks and 'near-asphyxiation'.

7. India - 53 referrals

Torture is commonplace in police and judicial custody, and the National Human Rights Commission in New Delhi has reported numerous incidences of death in custody. Human rights activists, journalists and political dissidents are frequently detained arbitrarily.

8. Eritrea - 48 referrals

Following its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Eritrea became a one-party state in which opposition is brutally suppressed and mandatory military conscription is indefinite.

A report of the UN commission of inquiry on human rights in Eritrea found in 2015 that, "Information collected on people’s activities, their supposed intentions and even conjectured thoughts are used to rule through fear in a country where individuals are routinely arbitrarily arrested and detained, tortured, disappeared or extra-judicially executed."

9. Nigeria - 46 referrals

An insurgency by the armed group Boko Haram has resulted in widespread conflict and terror in Nigeria since 2002. Boko Haram has committed numerous atrocities against civilians. Meanwhile government forces use torture in their hunt for those associated with the group, and in their pursuit of other criminals.

A report by Amnesty International, entitled 'Welcome to Hellfire', found that "suspects in police and military custody across the country are subjected to torture as punishment or to extract ‘confessions’ as a shortcut to 'solve' cases." Beatings, teeth extractions and sexual violence are amongst torture methods used.

10. Iraq - 43 referrals

Although Iraq ratified the UN Convention against Torture in 2011, international and local human rights organisations report that torture still frequently occurs. Amidst continuing conflict between the government of Iraq and armed groups, torture is often used by the police and security services as a method for extracting information and 'confessions.'

According to a 2015 UN report, armed groups in Iraq have also used torture systematically, in addition to committing other human rights violations.

Interactive map

You can use our interactive map below or directly here if you would like to present the above information, which also includes a sources section with links to further resources.

How you can help

Torture survivors who have reached safety in the UK need an environment of solidarity, peace and compassion to recover from trauma and rebuild their lives.

Torture survivors need a reminder that, despite what they hear in some parts of the media or racism they encounter in daily life, there are people who care; and this country still has huge reserves of acceptance and understanding for those fleeing persecution.

You can help. Here are five solidarity steps you can take right now. >>