Monday, June 27, 2016
Borders of Torture: Solidarity Vigil on UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
As we have done every year since 2010, the London Guantánamo Campaign marked UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, 26 June, with a public vigil in solidarity with all victims and survivors of torture worldwide. With the international theme this year of “Support Life after Torture”, the LGC turned its attention to one of the biggest crises currently facing the world: the refugee crisis. There are currently over 65 million people worldwide displaced by wars and conflicts and over half of them are children. Many of the people seeking refuge abroad are survivors of torture. As well as a difficult journey to safety, which can include further persecution and inhumane treatment, many men, women and children are denied refuge or are treated like criminals and held in appalling conditions in immigration detention centres and denied access to rehabilitation and adequate care.
The LGC highlighted the poor response from the UK and other European states in a silent vigil attended by around 20 people. Our solidarity action was very visual and powerful. The vigil, entitled the “Borders of Torture” involved activists holding up a washing line with bloodied (no one was harmed in the process) t-shirts and an accompanying banner stating “Don’t Hang Torture Victims out to Dry”. On a sunny and crowded afternoon in central London’s Trafalgar Square, the action was a huge hit with the public. Many people stopped to contemplate the message, take photographs of it, take leaflets and talk to activists handing them out. Overall, the public response was very positive and supportive of the action. The LGC was joined by the Guantánamo Justice Campaign and individuals activists on issues such as covert harassment. The LGC thanks everyone who joined.
This year’s theme and action are not a departure from our regular work on Guantánamo Bay prisoners as more than half of the remaining 79 prisoners are in the exact same position as the refugees fleeing their homelands. Many cannot return to their countries of origin due to wars there and do not have a safe third country to which they can be sent. Yemenis make up the largest nationality group at Guantánamo. Almost 30 are cleared for release but remain at Guantánamo as they have nowhere to go. Some have been cleared for release for over a decade. As well as offering refuge, states must also ensure that torture survivors have a right to redress and rehabilitation.
Although we take the opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless on 26 June each year, the LGC stands in solidarity with torture victims and survivors every day of the year. Our London vigil was one of dozens held worldwide by different organisations and coordinated by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims.