Torture survivors lead 30,000-strong call on Theresa May not to turn a blind eye to torture

We have delivered nearly 30,000 signatures to Downing Street today, calling on Theresa May to maintain and uphold the UK’s strong opposition to torture.

The signatures were delivered to the Prime Minister by John McCarthy, who was held hostage and tortured in Lebanon between 1986 and 1991. He was accompanied by Joan Ryan MP, Tom Brake MP, Sonya Sceats, our Acting Chief Executive and Hannah Ward, our Head of Communications and Campaigns.

The petition follows the launch this weekend of a new Freedom from Torture report on Iran, which examines forensic evidence of torture committed by the regime, and criticises the muted response offered by the UK and other countries. Freedom from Torture has called on the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to address evidence of ongoing torture in his recent meetings with the Iranian government.

Both the report and the petition call on the UK to stand firm against torture, and warn against the risks posed by deepening diplomatic and trade ties with torturing states.

Following the delivery of the petition, Survivors Speak OUT and supporters from our local groups staged a protest in Westminster calling on the UK and other members of the international community to stop turning a blind eye to torture in Iran.

Sonya Sceats, Acting Chief Executive of Freedom from Torture, said:

"As the UK negotiates its new trade relationships and political identity across the globe, it’s clearer than ever that now is the time for the government to set out clearly and firmly what our country stands for. 

The danger is that the UK will compromise long-standing principles, including the absolute ban on torture, in pursuit of economic and political ends.

Iran is the latest test. Boris Johnson should use his new political channels to press the regime to end the horrific abuses documented by our doctors. This will signal to survivors of torture everywhere that as Britain prepares to pursue a more independent foreign policy, it will not lose its moral compass."

John McCarthy said:

“Torture seeks to break and dehumanise people, to rob them of their identity and leave them powerless. It can never be justified or condoned. It is our responsibility to support survivors of torture, and challenge the use of these barbaric practices in countries around the world.

By failing to hold torturing states to account, the UK government adds to the trauma experienced by survivors. They must stand strong against torture in all its forms, wherever it occurs, both now and in the future.”

Nasrin Parvaz, a member of the survivor activist network Survivors Speak OUT, said:

“I was tortured in Iran as an attempt to silence me, but Freedom from Torture helped me to find my voice again.

I hope the launch of this new report will help give confidence to survivors that they are not alone, and will remind governments around the world, and the people who vote for them, why they should not ignore my country’s appalling abuses of its people, while they secure political or other gains. In uncertain political times, it's so important for us to stand together against torture.”