Seven million migrants tortured, claims Swiss UN expert

Over 600,000 people have crossed the central Mediterranean to Italy in the past three years. Many are refugees fleeing conflict and persecution who along with migrants have faced torture, rape, sexual exploitation, slavery and other forms of forced labour. Keystone

Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, estimates that at least seven million migrants around the world have been victims of torture. 

This content was published on March 1, 2018 - 16:12

Presenting his annual report External linkto the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday, Melzer said he had consulted widely on the prevalence of torture and other abuse among irregular migrants. 

"According to a recent studyExternal link, depending on the context, the confirmed prevalence of torture victims among irregular migrants ranges up to 76%, with the overall average being 27%. Even when discounting widespread under-reporting and focusing exclusively on recognized refugees and asylum seekers, this extrapolates to a staggering seven million victims of torture," he declared.

He added that the figure of seven million was probably the “tip of the iceberg”. 

The human rights investigator urged states and the International Criminal Court to closely evaluate whether the charges of crimes against humanity or war crimes could be justified. 

The current humanitarian tragedy of migrants and related political tensions is not linked to current population movements but to “our failure to respond to them and to assume our collective responsibility”, he declared in his address to the UN rights forum. 

“We are turning our eyes away from the suffering of millions of people,” he added. 

Melzer called for “significant progress” in ongoing negotiations on the Global Compacts on Refugees External linkand MigrationExternal link. The second stage of these talks is being facilitated by Switzerland.  

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