Prof. Agnes Heller (2005) has written: “There are many different characterizations and quasi-definitions of the decent person, but all of them indicate the same essence: responsibility.” This means that individuals assume responsibility for their own actions, those taken by other members of society, and by society as a whole. Yet ministers, prime ministers, directors of security agencies and torturers themselves all act with “permission” and “authorization” and all prove time and again how nebulous and elusive “responsibility” remains in social discourse.
The “And we were tortured” booklet contains a series of works created by artists inspired by the testimonies of victims of torture. We send the testimonies to artists who each sought to represent them in their own manner, in accordance with their own contexts and associative worlds. While each of the representations is a personal one from the victim and from the artist, as a whole it nevertheless raises issues which cross society in its entirety: how does torture happen? What enables security personnel to torture? Who is responsible?
Although formal accountability should lie with the authorities – ministers, commanders, interrogators, officers – the responsibility is ours as well. In a democratic society, each one of us who allows the authorities the power to use force is also responsible for its proper use, for righting its iniquities and ensuring that no helpless victims are tortured. We are all responsible for the suffering caused to the tortured and must act to prevent it.