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Resources on Torture & War Crimes

2016 August 11

Resources on Torture & War Crimes…
for survivors and those who work with them

When I first started working on this issue, there were not all that many organizations working with torture survivors, or on issues related to torture — and at least a couple of those have since gone out of business. I’m glad to say that that seems to have changed. Even so, we’re not anywhere near to keeping up with the need.

In any case, here’s a list of some organizations and resources on the issue. Some have been around quite a while, though a few are fairly new. At the bottom of the page are links to some earlier lists I’ve published.

Reclaiming Hope, Dignity and Respect
This 2015 report from the Center for Victims of Torture documents the organization’s work with Syrians and Iraqis fleeing the conflicts in their countries and currently living in Jordan. At the time of publication, CVT reported that there were “nearly 630,000 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan, and CVTSyria-1increasing numbers of Iraqis.” The Center’s psychosocial counselors, physical therapists and social workers work with refugees and torture survivors in other areas of the Middle East and Africa as well.

“Interviewees rarely report being tortured to elicit information. Rather, the torture survivors believe that perpetrators wanted to intimidate and create pervasive fear…” Survivors reported “nightmares, trouble sleeping, constant paranoia, difficulty with concentration…fear of loud noises and planes, withdrawal and isolation.” Among the most important obstacles to recovery is their inability to work and provide for themselves, attend school and, maybe most critically, the long wait – typically a year or more – to find out when they might be referred for resettlement, after an application process that may itself take several years.

CVTSyria-4

In addition to its international activities, the Center for Victims of Torture operates, in Minneapolis, the largest and longest-established treatment centers for torture survivors in the United States. (It’s one of the groups featured in my documentary, REFUGE.

Redress Torture Survivors Handbook
One of the immigrant survivors of torture that I interviewed for my documentary film, Refuge: Caring for Survivors of Torture told me about meeting, and unknowingly befriending, one of the men responsible for torturing him and his family in their home country. The Torture Survivors’ Handbook, from the London-based organization RedressReprieve-2 goes beyond the standard “welcome refugees” format to explore a range of such issues that may confront torture survivors, as well as the service providers who work with them. It’s primarily aimed at survivors and their supporters in the UK, though it could serve as a model for those working on the issue in other countries. In addition to issues likely to be covered in any such manual, it looks at such politically sensitive issues as: what if you have been tortured by someone from the very country in which you are seeking refuge?

NOTE: This and most publications on the Redress site are available in multiple languages. Some are difficult to access because they are in PDF format rather than web pages so, if you know the title, it may be easiest to just enter it in your search engine, e.g., for this one: “redress torture survivors handbook.”

Reprieve is another Britain-based legal services organization that focuses not just on the issue of torture, but on the death penalty, capital punishment, drone warfare, and secret prisons. Reprieve’s website states: “We provide free legal and investigative support to some of the world’s most vulnerable people: British, European, and other nationals facing execution, and those victimized by states’ abusive counter-terror policies – rendition, torture, extrajudicial imprisonment and killing…our lawyers and investigators are supported by a community of people from around the world.”

The Association for the Prevention of Torture says its work “is built on the insight that torture and forms of ill-treatment happen behind closed doors, out of public view. We therefore promote transparency in all places where people are deprived of liberty.” APT maintains a regularly-updated database on torture in 105 countries – most recent update: July 20, 2016.

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