Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, exposure to loud noises or extreme temperatures and being forced to remain in physically uncomfortable positions - it sounds medieval, but these forms of torture are still very much in use today. Ahead of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June, MEPs debated how to bring an end to torture and ill-treatment.
In a debate in the Human Rights Sub-Committee on 15 June, participants agreed that torture and ill-treatment violate the principles of liberty, democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and noted that working towards the prevention and eradication of torture is a key EU objective.
The EU's action is guided by international and regional standards on human rights including the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.
"The basic good faith measure that states can undertake to eradicate torture remains the ratification without reservation of the UN convention against torture and other cruel treatment," said Finnish Green Heidi Hautala.
Torture and counter-terrorism
There are concerns that these practices may occur in the fight against terrorism. Given the argument that the prevention of terrorism relies on good intelligence and the secretive nature of intelligence gathering, there are concerns that the methods used may breach human rights.
Since secrecy may be no more than a cloak to avoid proper accountability the solution is transparent legal prosecutions and more civilian control over the activity of intelligence agencies. "Interrogation techniques in unacknowledged detention centres have been given fancy names, like enhanced interrogation techniques; whereas these are no less than practices of torture," according to former UN Special rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Hina Jilani.
"Another issue is the use of extradition to other countries where there are grounds for believing that they may be the subject to torture," said Eric Sottas, Secretary-General of the World Organisation Against Torture. "There’s a list of evidence that authorities need to take into account. Serious and repeated violation of human rights means that we cannot extradite to those countries."