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New Resources: 10-25-2012

2012 October 25

Torture Without Scars

We imagine cigarette burns, broken bones, livid scars, missing limbs, but the wounds of modern torture are often invisible. The “enhanced interrogation techniques” that U.S. interrogators have developed – forced nakedness, sleep deprivation, stress positions, solitary confinement, threats against loved ones – leave no scars.
            A new advocacy site from the Center for Victims of Torture (one of the programs profiled in our forthcoming documentary, Refuge: Caring for Survivors of Torture) describes and illustrates some of those techniques. Note that some of the images included may be quite disturbing. The main page also links to a discussion of how to take action to stop torture, and to several short videos showing “how abuses were used in combination to compound the harm.”

“Part of the terror and fear was humiliation, degradation, knowing that this could happen with impunity…If the Americans are doing it, and they’re not accountable, then who’s going to come to your rescue?”
           — Moazzam Begg, former detainee released without charge in 2005

Suicide Among Bhutanese Refugees

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, together with the Refugee Health Technical Assistance Center (RHTAC), have published An Investigation into Suicides among Bhutanese Refugees in the U.S. documenting sixteen suicides that occurred from 2009-2012 among Bhutanese refugees resettled in the United States – a higher rate than reported among other immigrant populations. Most of those who killed themselves were unemployed men, and among the most common post-migration problems cited were “worries about families back home and difficulty maintaining cultural and religious traditions.” RHTAC notes that comments and questions about the report can be submitted to its Community Dialogue site, and will be answered by the study team.


The latest issue of Torture, the journal of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims is now available online. One of this issue’s scientific articles discusses the psychological status of young Bosnian refugees interned in Denmark.
            The article notes that some of the families of these youth had been living in Denmark for as long as two-and-a-half years, waiting for the right to apply for asylum, and were still housed in refugee camps. Under the “temporary living permits” granted to them, they were not permitted to work or to attend Danish schools. The youth in the study were living in special boarding schools organized by Danish Refugee Aid, and staffed by volunteer Bosnian teachers.
            The study reported that 38-43% of the study participants could be diagnosed as having PTSD. Despite the multiple traumas the youth had experienced, the researchers considered this alarmingly high given that most had relatively intact family structures. Studies of other unaccompanied minors in European countries have shown PTSD prevalence in the range of 20%. “The level of PTSD in this study,” they note, “is comparable to early adolescents and children living in African and Asian refugee camps, where prevalence ranges between 35-75%.”
            Back issues of Torture are available on the IRCT website.

(Illustrations above from Center for Victims of Torture)



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