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Government policies and the torture of refugees

Spencer Zifcak |  31 March 2018

Nils Melzer is the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment. Recently, he presented a damning report to the UN Human Rights Council on the subjection of refugees across the world to torture. Melzer’s fundamental contention was this. The primary cause for the massive abuse suffered by refugees globally is neither migration itself nor organized crime. Instead, it is the inexorable trend amongst States to base their official refugee policies on deterrence, detention and criminalization rather than on protection, human rights and non-discrimination. 

I am a measured person. Reason is my first strategy. But, nevertheless, I think it’s time for the nation to consider the probability that this country is responsible for torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment –  not only directly domestically but also indirectly internationally. A noticeable number of the 7 million torture victims worldwide is likely down to us. 

In his extensive evidence-based report, Melzer makes a frighteningly persuasive case. The abuses suffered by refugees and asylum seekers globally include countless cases of torture, rape, enslavement, trafficking and the infliction of serious physical and psychological damage. While not the only cause of such harm, governments’ leaders and their policies, he argues, bear the principal responsibility for the vast, unbridled, human tragedy that has unfolded.


Spencer Zifcak

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