UN INTERNATIONAL DAY IN SUPPORT OF VICTIMS OF TORTURE
KITUO MARKS UN INTERNATIONAL DAY IN SUPPORT OF VICTIMS OF TORTURE
26 June is the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This year’s 26 June Global Campaign seeks to facilitate action by local groups and organizations across the world who work every day to support victims of torture and ill-treatment. Kituo Cha Sheria joins the world to commemorate this International day in support of Victims of Torture and this article seeks to explore the efforts that have been made in the realization of taking human rights approach to issues of Migration and what our Organization, Kituo has been undertaking to advance these interests. Today we commemorate the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Many torture survivors and their families across the world are forced to leave their homelands to avoid further torture, ill-treatment and discrimination. The journey often brings with it additional trauma and uncertainty, but arrival at an intended or unintended destination eventually occurs – most often in a country close-by, or maybe at a previously unimaginable distance. The new location is away from a familiar way of doing things, a support network, a means of supporting one’s family. Existence is precarious. Torture trauma can make the already challenging task of making a life anew completely overwhelming – even years later. Equally, many migrants and their families across the world face the threat of torture and ill-treatment in the country in which they settle or pass through – simply by virtue of being a migrant. So often in contemporary society the finger of blame is pointed at the migrant, without it being recognized that they are frequently the victims of torture, rape, enslavement, trafficking and murder. Since time immemorial, human beings have been migrating in search of better opportunities, pasture and a better life for their families. Each one of us, in one way or the other is as a result of migration. In my case, my ancestors migrated from the Bahr el Ghazal region In South Sudan. In these modern times people are still migrating in pursuit of a better life however of concern are the cases of forceful displacement due to issues of persecution, conflict, generalized violence or human rights violations. In this article we will talk about migrants to mean refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people collectively.
“The act of torture supports and encourages a system of impunity. It can take years before the perpetrator is brought to justice, but rehabilitation gives victims the necessary strength to wait for this justice.” – Olga Sadovskaya, Deputy chair of the Committee Against Torture
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2015 estimated that there were 65.3 Million people who have been forcibly displaced and among these migrants, there are migrants who have undergone different forms of torture. The forms of torture include beatings and starvation, sexual violence, arbitrary and violent detention of Migrants. The torture occurs in their country of origin, during transit and they continue to experience torture in the countries that they seek asylum. UNHCR estimates among refugees alone between 5 -35 percent are torture survivors. In their efforts to recover from the different forms of torture, their survival and recovery is further compounded by being far away from their home country, economic difficulties and constant threats of insecurity. The survivors of torture require a holistic plan of intervention to assist them in their recovery process. The approaches include and not limited to legal, social, medical and psychological assistance and offering livelihood assistance to the survivors. As an organization, Kituo, through the Forced Migration Program has been in the frontline in providing much needed assistance through the provision of legal advice and representation in court and psychological assistance. One of the concerns of survivors of torture is highlighted in the process of seeking justice and acquisition of legal status. The Refugee Determination Process can be long and strenuous further exacerbating the efforts of asylum seekers and refugees to adjust to their new environment (Host community). Torture victims have a right to pursue justice and throughout this process of legal assistance as an organization we are careful to offer therapeutic jurisprudential approach where the clients are prioritized as human beings and ensuring that all actors involved will be apply the law in a therapeutic, less harmful and in a beneficial way. To achieve these recommendations/efforts Kituo Cha Sheria is actively involved in the training of the Court Users Committees and Government officers (e.g Police) on matters concerning Refugee Law, issues of documentation and the effects of trauma on the migrants and improving inhumane conditions of detention or possible torture. All in an effort to improve delivery of services and enhance the human rights of the migrant; Kituo also responds to the challenge of arbitrary detention through conducting frequent detention monitoring in police stations and prisons. Kituo also creates awareness to clients on their rights and creats referral linkages and finally maintaining a positive relationship with the police to ensure in case of an arrest of the persons of concern the organization can be informed and swift action is taken to secure release of the migrant. Many clients however are sometimes unable and unwilling to pursue legal assistance because they are still grappling with the physical and psychological effects of torture. They have to deal with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies which reduce their ability to reclaim their rights or seek legal assistance. Some of the migrants may be reluctant to report due to fear of negative outcomes such as being detained or deported. They also grapple with fear of shame and stigmatization. The reluctance to reveal details of their flight when in detention or during Refugee status determination may be construed as a refusal to cooperate; withholding of information or the giving of misleading information by lying. These misunderstandings undermine the credibility of migrants. The ongoing effects of trauma like constant fear, re-living the traumatic events- flashbacks disables people’s daily functioning and their ability to fulfill even their basic needs. Kituo in efforts to provide relief to the migrants also offers trauma focused psychological intervention as they continue to pursue legal redress. The migrants are also offered information on what other organizations could help to fulfill the other pending and important needs they may have for instance- livelihood assistance. As an organization that embodies the human rights aspect Kituo will continue to stand with all migrants in particular victims of different forms of torture to ensure that they get justice through advocacy efforts and legal assistance not forgetting the psychological intervention that will ensure the client is ready to take the long journey pursuing justice for their cases.