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The Rights of Torture Survivors

2014 May 1

Video Focuses on Torture Survivors’
Right to Redress and Rehabilitation

Some of the internationally recognized rights of survivors of torture are outlined in a short video from the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights,which litigates cases that seek to hold state and non-state actors accountable for violating the rights of the most vulnerable.  The program highlights some barriers to torture rehabilitation as well.

NovakThe video features former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak (at left), who discusses the rights torture survivors have under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. “Torture is one of the most serious human rights violations,” Nowak comments in the video: “Torture survivors are in need of whatever support and rehabilitation is available to overcome their experience.” Also interviewed in the video is Dr. Mechthild Wenk-Ansohn, of the Berlin Center for the Treatment of Torture Victims.

“Rehabilitation centers for the victims of torture often operate in an environment characterized by insecurity and violence. Their engagement with victims of torture, the provision of medical services, and particularly the documentation of torture cases make them frequent targets of those who inflicted the suffering. As a consequence, physicians, forensic experts, psychologists, administrative staff and volunteers all work under considerable personal risk and are often confronted with harassment, threats, assault or even killings.

“Furthermore, the recent global financial crisis has had a tangible impact on many centers, forcing them to cut back existing services because funding from private foundations has decreased.”

2010 report to the United Nations General Assembly
by then Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak

So what’s a rapporteur?

The word refers to someone who has been designated to investigate a particular issue and report back to a “deliberative body,” in this case, the United Nations Human Rights Council. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture has been mandated to “examine, monitor, advise and publicly report” to the Council on human rights violations. Special Rapporteurs act independently of all governments. They are not members of the UN staff, and are expected to operate “impartially, honestly, and in good faith.” The current Special Rapporteur on Torture is Juan Mendez, a lawyer and human rights activist from Argentina who, early in his career, was arrested by his country’s military dictatorship and subjected to torture for 18 months.

The Special Rapporteurs do not receive any financial compensation for their work, but get staffing and logistical support from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Interestingly, at one time the code of conduct for Rapporteurs did not allow them to address the media about their findings and recommendations, but this is no longer the case.

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One comment on “The Rights of Torture Survivors

  1. Dr. H. Butler on said:

    Thank you for your work.

    H.E. Butler III M.D., FACS
    HButler@post.Harvard.edu
    Commander, USNR, Fleet Reserve

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