R11 Our right to security

Civil Rights

Unless someone is arrested and charged with a crime, they should not be held in detention against their will. People have the right not to suffer punishment, ill-treatment and, in particular, torture while they are awaiting judgement or while in prison. Torture occurs when someone deliberately inflicts severe pain, either mental or physical, on another person, often on official orders or with official knowledge. This is done either to obtain information, as punishment or to force people to do something against their will.

Anyone who is detained or arrested has the right to legal advice and a lawyer. Many people who are poor do not have money to pay a lawyer. However, there are some legal organisations willing to provide free legal help. People who are taken away by the authorities may be powerless to request legal help. However, their family and friends can seek help on their behalf.

Sometimes people’s work conditions are so difficult that their whole life experience may feel like torture. This is often the case for child slaves, sex slaves or bonded labourers. These people are usually powerless to seek help and depend on others to advocate on their behalf.

  • Read Ecclesiastes 4:1-3. One of the worst aspects of torture is that people often feel no-one else is aware of their suffering. How can we act as comforters to the oppressed (verse 1)?
  • Do we think that our lives are more difficult than those of our parents and grandparents (verse 2)? What are the reasons for this?
  • Does torture take place in our country? What evidence do we have of this? What would happen if ordinary people raised concerns about it with our government?
  • What would it mean to love our enemies in our everyday lives? Who are the people who make our lives really difficult? What would it mean to love them?
  • Can we think of examples of countries or people that have tried to deal with people who have been ‘enemies’ through reconciliation and forgiveness? What have been the outcomes?
  • How does our community or society deal with people who treat others badly? Consider some recent examples.
  • Are there groups of people whose lives are unbearable in our country? Who are these groups? How can we find out more about their situation? What action could we take to raise awareness of their situation?

Articles 4, 5, 11, 30 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights