It's hard to envision, but these atrocities are happening:
Claudia Medina was tortured in Mexico, where she was beaten and sexually assaulted by marines. Alfreda Disbarro was tortured in the Philippines and beaten by police until she confessed to a crime she had not committed. Sixteen-year-old Moses Akatugba was tortured in Nigeria, shot in the hand, and was beaten by soldiers until he too signed a false confession.
Canadians are currently taking action to ensure justice for all three torture survivors by participating in a global campaign—Stop Torture—recently launched by the human rights organization Amnesty International.
“In the past five years, we've had reports of torture happening in 141 countries—that's three-quarters of the world,” says Don Wright, who works at Amnesty International's Vancouver office. “It's truly shocking that torture is flourishing so widely. And it's inspiring that so many of our citizens are choosing to take part in Amnesty's campaign to stop torture.”
Perhaps it's not surprising that many of us are taking a stand on this issue. Canadians have a long and proud history of taking the lead on human rights and humanitarian issues. John Humphrey, for example, wrote the first draft of what became the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Canada took a prominent United Nations peacekeeping role starting in the 1950s. Canadians were also at the forefront of the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa during the 1970s and '80s, and individuals across our country have been enthusiastic participants in earlier Amnesty International human rights campaigns.
To introduce people to the new Stop Torture initiative, Amnesty International has been organizing community workshops throughout British Columbia.
“The workshops introduce people to the nature of torture and what's needed to stop it from happening,” says Wright. “The sessions are interactive, interesting, and they provide people with the tools to take action. The response from people attending the events has been very encouraging.”
Anyone interested in hosting a campaign workshop in their own community should contact Don Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-294-5160 ext 101.