26 June - UN International Day in Support of victims of torture

Right to Rehabilitation
Torture is a widespread phenomenon affecting people in more than 100 countries in the world. Torture is often used to punish, to obtain information or a confession, to take revenge on a person or persons, to create terror and fear within a population, or as an expression of discrimination against a marginalised group. The trauma of torture reaches long beyond the direct victims and in some instances, whole societies can be traumatised where torture has been used in a systematic and widespread manner. In general, after years of repression, conflict and war, regular support networks and structures have often been broken or destroyed.


International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims

Providing holistic rehabilitation and redress to survivors of torture and trauma can help heal the effects of torture and therefore help reconstruct broken societies. The aim of rehabilitation is to empower the torture victim to resume as full a life as possible, to restore the situation to the fullest extent possible that in all likeliness would have existed if the wrongful act had not been committed. However, although international law grants torture victims a right to rehabilitation (this is included as a means of redress and reparation guaranteed by Article 14 of the Convention against Torture), rehabilitation services are not readily available in many countries and in even fewer are these provide by the state. Many governments lack specific programmes or health budget lines to provide or ensure the provision of rehabilitation services to torture victims.

integrity of the victims, their family and their caretakers; • Provided at the earliest possible point in time after the torture event, without a requirement for the victim to pursue judicial remedies, but solely based on recommendations by a qualified health professional; • Provided in close consultation with the victim and tailored to meet the specific needs of each individual victim; • Adequately funded directly or indirectly by the state.

Building a legal framework
Article 14 of the UN Convention against Torture guarantees the right of torture victims to redress for violations and includes the right to obtain re¬paration, including a fair and adequate compensation and the means for as full rehabilitation as possible. Members of the UN Committee against Torture have regularly emphasised that the obligation of Article 14 involves not only the provision of material compensation, but also holistic rehabilitation, i.e. physical, mental and social rehabilitation. At the end of 2012, the UN Committee against Torture adopted its General Comment #3 elaborating on Article 14 of the Convention against Torture, which provides:

Elements of rehabilitation
Rebuilding the life of someone whose dignity has been destroyed takes time, and as a result longterm holistic rehabilitation services are needed. Treatment must be a coordinated effort that covers a variety of aspects, including but not limited to physical, psychological and social need. It is important to take into consideration the patients’ needs, problems, expectations, views and cultural references. The IRCT advocates that rehabilitation should be: • Holistic, meaning rehabilitation needs to employ different treatment approaches, taking into account the victims’ individual needs, as well as the cultural, social and political environment. This may include medical, psychological, legal, social and economic interventions; and, in the case of asylum seekers, the services also may include assisting in documentation of torture for the asylum decision, language classes and help in finding somewhere to live and work. • Available without discrimination, appropriate, accessible and provided in a way that guarantees the safety and personal

Each State Party shall ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible.
The General Comment provided much clarification of what is composed in Article 14, namely that rehabilitation should be holistic, cannot be

made subject to availability or prioritisation of resources by the state, that it must be accessible at the soonest possible point after torture, and that torture victims have a right to choose their provider, be it nongovernmental organisations or the state providing services.

society, academia and donor organisations on how rehabilitation for torture victims can be effectively delivered and can contribute to the fight against torture.

Right to rehabilitation and the IRCT
As the global umbrella organisation for 144 rehabilitation centres in more than 70 countries, the IRCT has long collaborated with various stakeholders to influence not only a conducive policy environment for the realisation of this right, but to develop practical understanding on how the right to rehabilitation becomes a reality. The IRCT provided concerted and strategic input to the development of General Comment 3, both through written and oral submissions, and in collaboration with our member centres and other international NGOs working in the field. The IRCT was extremely pleased to see that our input, focusing on a victim-centred approach, early access to rehabilitation and the criteria for holistic rehabilitation, had a significant impact on the final document. In 2013, the IRCT shall co-host a global scientific conference on the right to rehabilitation for victims of torture. The conference will explore in detail the way rehabilitation is provided to torture victims and it will consider how States can be encouraged to strengthen their implementation efforts in providing holistic and victim-centred rehabilitation services and the necessary funding to torture victims. The conference will draw on the experience from rehabilitation centres worldwide as well as representatives from academia, governments, inter-governmental organisations and civil society. Right to Rehabilitation was also the theme chosen by the IRCT for the 2013 UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June, a global campaign to raise awareness of torture and show public support for the victims.

Making this right a reality
While the precise scope of the obligations on states under Article 14 has been clarified to some extent by the Committee against Torture’s General Comment on Article 14, rehabilitation services are not readily available in all countries. In those few countries where reparation schemes have been established for victims of torture, the emphasis has tended to be on judicial or administrative procedures and monetary compensation, rather than on social or medical ones. Rehabilitation or reintegration activities often have been seen as the responsibility of civil society organisations, not requiring any active intervention on the part of the state. In order to effectively implement the right to rehabilitation, states must ensure that the necessary knowledge and facilities are present in the country. To this end, states should promote the acquisition of appropriate knowledge and skills within the relevant legal, medical, psychological and social professions, and support the establishment and continuous running of treatment facilities and services. However, even when states do provide such services, torture victims may be unwilling to seek rehabilitation from the very same government that committed the torture. This highlights the need for facilitating the availability of a real free choice of service provider for the victim, but at the same time retaining the states as the principal duty bearer. There is accordingly a need to encourage further discussion and collaboration between key stakeholders from government, civil


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#26June or #Right2Rehab
#Right2Rehab is the theme of this year’s 26 June campaign, and the subject of our conference on 26 June. Follow and re-tweet the conference action on #Right2Rehab

International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) Borgergade 13 • P.O. Box 9049 • 1022 Copenhagen K • Denmark Tel.: +45 33 76 06 00 • Fax: +45 33 76 05 00 Email: irct@irct.org • http://www.irct.org

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