World Medical Association Celebrates Landmark Declaration on Torture

(25.06.2015) The 40th anniversary of a landmark declaration by the medical profession against physicians’ involvement in torture is being celebrated on the eve of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (June 26).

World Medical Association President Dr. Xavier Deau said it was 40 years since the WMA first adopted its Declaration of Tokyo on Guidelines for Physicians Concerning Torture. This set out clear guidance that “the physician shall not countenance, condone or participate in the practice of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading procedures, whatever the offense of which the victim of such procedures is suspected, accused or guilty, and whatever the victim's beliefs or motives, and in all situations, including armed conflict and civil strife.”

Dr. Deau said: ‘I am proud to celebrate the work done by the WMA in supporting physicians across the world in their opposition to torture and on the guidance in our Declaration of Malta that forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable. With these two Declarations I have no doubt that we have made a significant difference to the world. When it was adopted in 1975, the Declaration of Tokyo was the first clear statement by the medical profession against physician involvement in torture and it has become a milestone in human rights. It is now an essential tool in medical ethics and education and a major global reference in the prevention of torture, inspiring others to engage in the fight against torture.

‘Regrettably there is still widespread evidence of torture being used around the world. Physicians are helping victims, often despite threats to their own life, and the WMA is committed under its Declaration of Hamburg to support physicians facing pressure to become involved in any inhuman procedures. Equally we encourage our member associations to investigate accusations of physician involvement in torture and we support them in resisting such violations, and standing firm in their ethical convictions’.