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This short essay offers a broad and necessarily incomplete review of the current state of the human rights struggle against torture and ill-treatment. It sketches four widespread assumptions in the human rights struggle against: 1) that torture is an issue of detention and interrogation; 2) that political or security detainees are archetypal victims of torture: 3) that legal reform is one of the best ways to fight torture; 4) and that human rights monitoring helps to stamp out violence. The four assumptions set out below have all played an important role in the history of the human rights fight against torture, but also resulted in limitations in terms of the interventions that are used, the forms of violence that human rights practitioners respond to, the types of survivors they seek to protect. Taken together, these four assumptions have created challenges for the human rights community in confronting the multiple forms of torture rooted in the deep and widespread inequality experienced by many poor and marginal groups. The essay ends by pointing to some emerging themes in the fight against torture, such as a focus on inequality, extra-custodial violence and the role of corruption.
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