Archive for June, 2012

Thank you for commemorating the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

Orly Marcellana, Spokesperson of Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement posed in front of a military camp in Quezon province – Philippines to support a World Without Torture. June 26, 2012

This year, more than 80 organisations around the world commemorated the day with activities ranging from conferences to theatre performances. Hundreds of people joined the online observation of the day on Facebook and many more shared their messages in support of torture victims on Twitter.

The 26 June is over but the work against torture and in support of torture survivors must be carried out 365 days a year.

There are many ways you can get involved and support this work:

Donate to the IRCT and help rehabilitation centres around the world provide healing services to victims, their families and communities.

Share our dream of a World Without Torture on Facebook and Twitter.

Do you want to be updated about out work?

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter

26 June Global Report 2011

We are already working on this year’s report. Please send us your photos and short report of your events until 26 July to 26june@irct.org. See past reports here.

Already thinking about 26 June 2013?

Get some inspiration in our campaign tools and 26 June around the world map.

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Rehabilitation works… and is a torture survivor’s right!

Today marks the UN International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture. It provides us with an opportunity to honour the victims and survivors of torture, and for us all, survivors of torture and their allies, to stand in solidarity.

Despite its absolute prohibition torture continues to be a global phenomenon: both physical and psychological torture. Torture is today prevalent in over half the world’s countries. This is a disgrace in the twenty-first century.

Its victims are men, women – often targeted by rape and other sexual torture, and also, children. Torture victims are disproportionately from marginalized groups, in particular the poor, but also women and minority groups.

The aim of torture is to exert power, to punish, create fear and to destroy trust.

The aim of torture is to break down the victim’s personality and resilience. It is first and foremost a means of instilling fear in society at large. Torture is not only destructive at the individual and family level, but also a crucial obstacle to economic and social development for whole societies.

The effects of torture continue long after the actual act has happened. And rehabilitation is crucial – for the individual, their family and their society. The purpose of rehabilitation is to empower the torture survivor to resume as full a life as possible. Rebuilding the life of someone whose dignity has been destroyed takes time and as a result long-term material, medical, psychological and social support is needed.

It is important to stress that rehabilitation is possible. And it works.

The positive impact of rehabilitation efforts is often far-reaching. It goes beyond the impact on the individual to affect communities and society at large and plays a key role in promoting democracy, co-existence, and respect for human rights.

Rehabilitation is also a right. Article 14 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture expressly provides that States should make compensation an enforceable right, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible. It adds a fundamental element to the fight against torture by explicitly recognising that rehabilitation has to form part of the response to torture.

Each year over 100,000 survivors of torture receive treatment from torture rehabilitation centres all over the world. But there are many more who go without the rehabilitation that is their need and their right. Together, we must work to increase our reach in order to bring healing to the greater numbers who suffer, often in silence.

A film from member centre Freedom From Torture in cooperation with the UK Survivors Speak OUT Network

And together on this UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we affirm the right of survivors of torture to rehabilitation. We take the opportunity to remind governments all over the world to take seriously their responsibilities to ensure as full a rehabilitation as possible from this most horrendous form of abuse.

We remind the world that rehabilitation is a right. We remind the world that rehabilitation works.

For the Global Reading in Spanish, French or Arabic, click here.

A film from partner organisation OMCT on 26 June

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Rehabilitation centers help victims become survivors: Germán in Mexico City

Véase a continuación la versión en español

Nota del editor: Queremos dar las gracias al Colectivo Contra la Tortura y la Impunidad A.C. (CCTI) para este blog

Editor’s Note: Rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right: this is the theme of this year’s 26 June campaign for the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. During the next two weeks, we shall be posting testimonies, stories and experiences from torture survivors themselves. Their testimonies explain clearly – rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right.

 

 

Germán  (Mexico City)

My name is Germán Heredia Rebollar, I am 28 years old, I suffered torture at the hands of public servants, police investigators.  On 7 June 2011 I was detained arbitrarily by the police.  They did not identify themselves, they did not tell me why I was being detained, nor did they read me my rights.  Without a word, but using excessive force, they put me in a truck where I suffered all types of physical and psychological abuse. It felt like they wanted to split my head open with their blows and their attempts to asphyxiate me and make me admit to doing things in my life.  They told me to accept the blame and then everything would be easy, they tried to get into my head and confuse me.  They wanted to kill me!

Thank God I survived, but I am not the same.  I was unable to sleep, now and again I would hear their words which filled me with horror, and I was reminded of how they talked about my family.  When eventually I could sleep, I would wake up sweating.  My hair fell out and I was scared of anyone who represented the authorities, as they reminded me of the male prison guards where I was unjustly detained.

I didn’t think I would survive but I have managed to, up until now, thanks to God and to the fact that my family went to the Collective against Torture and Impunity.  The Collective has given me and my family psychological support.

At first I thought that the Collective wouldn’t be able to help me much but now I realise just how much help they have given me.  They have taught me and advised me and this has helped me enormously to rebuild a part of my life, above all allowing me to overcome the memories of the torture that prevented me from sleeping.  The support has also allowed me to lead a more peaceful life and more importantly it has shown me how to be strong for my family, to not feel guilty for their suffering.  It has helped me to realise that neither I nor my family are to blame for what I have been through.

Thanks to this Collective I can say that I am a torture survivor.  It is important that these kinds of organisations exist to be able to erase the marks and the pain caused by torture, to be able to move forward, to be able to live a normal life, to make us realise that there are institutions which are free from corruption.

 

 

Germán  (Distrito Federal)

Mi nombre es Germán Heredia Rebollar, tengo 28 años, fui víctima de tortura por parte de servidores públicos, policías de investigación. El día 7 de junio del 2011 fui detenido arbitrariamente por dichos policías, no se identificaron, no me dijeron el motivo de mi detención y mucho menos me dijeron o leyeron mis derechos, sin mediar palabra y con exceso de violencia, me subieron a una camioneta tipo van, en donde sufrí toda clase de golpes físicos y psicológicos, sentí que querían abrir mi mente a base de golpes y de asfixia y que querían poner en ella actos que en mi vida había hecho, me decían que aceptara culparme y todo sería mássencillo, querían meterse en mi mente y confundirme ¡Querían matarme!

Gracias a Dios sobreviví, pero no era el mismo, no podía dormir, en mis oídos escuchaba un ay otra vez sus palabras esas palabras que dolían horrores, esas palabras donde mencionaban a mi familia y cuando por fin podía dormir despertaba exaltado, sudando, se me caía el cabello y sobre todo tenía miedo de toda persona que representara una autoridad, como los custodios del reclusorio preventivo varonil oriente donde me encuentro injustamente recluido.

Pensaba que no iba a sobrevivir pero gracias a Dios y a que mi familia se acerco al Colectivo Contra la Tortura y la Impunidad lo he logrado hasta el día de hoy, este colectivo nos ha brindado atención psicológica a mi familia y a mí.

Al principio pensé que no me podían ayudar que mucho pero el día de hoy me doy cuenta que su ayuda ha sido muy grande, me han enseñado y aconsejado y esto me ha servido de mucho para recuperar parte de mi vida, sobre todo para superar esa parte de la tortura que no me dejaba dormir, también me ha ayudado a tener una vida más tranquila en el lugar donde me encuentro y lo más importante me han enseñado a estar lo mejor posible con mi familia, a no sentirme culpable por su sufrimiento, darme cuenta que lo que me está pasando no es culpa mía ni de mi familia

Gracias a este colectivo puedo decir que soy un sobreviviente de la tortura. Por eso es importante que existan este tipo de instituciones para poder borrar las huellas y el dolor causados por la tortura para poder salir adelante, para poder llevar una vida normal, para darnos cuenta que existen instituciones insobornables.

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‘Although they broke me down, they could not take away my yearning for freedom’

Véase a continuación la versión en español

Nota del editor: Queremos dar las gracias al Colectivo Contra la Tortura y la Impunidad A.C. (CCTI) para este blog

Editor’s Note: Rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right: this is the theme of this year’s 26 June campaign for the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. During the next two weeks, we shall be posting testimonies, stories and experiences from torture survivors themselves. Their testimonies explain clearly – rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right.

 

 

Italia (Atenco, México)

Six years ago, on 4 May 2006, I was arrested and tortured physically and sexually by agents working for the State and Federal Police in San Salvador, Atenco, Mexico.  This left a brutal mark on my life. I recognized the horror that engulfed me with feelings of fear and depression.  I felt violated and I was unable to find a reason for what had happened to me.  I could understand the feelings of repression conceptually, but I was unable to control my emotions and the physical effects suffered as a result of the torture.

The sexual nature of the torture which I suffered aggravated in many respects my status as a victim – the stigma was something that affected me deeply.  It filled me with indignation and anger that as victims we were referred to in the media as “The rape victims of Atenco” and that the authorities called us “Liars”.  I remember that my capacity to make decisions was completely lost, to distinguish between things I should or shouldn’t do – it made me feel that I wasn’t doing enough, or the right thing.  It made no difference the nature of the decision, guilt washed over me.

Now, after six years of intensive work to recover from the torture, I can say that I feel better.  Inevitably I will never be the same woman as before, however, I have managed to regain my ability to make decisions, I am more in control of my emotions and I am capable of dealing with fear, without it paralyzing me.

In my experience, there have been two fundamental axes that have helped me to continue with my life.  On the one hand, at the individual level, having a safe and secure place for psychotherapy, which allowed me to unravel the traumatic events and make significant progress in relation to identifying the damage to my body and mind in order to rebuild myself.  On the other hand, at the collective level, having a space in which my testimony is heard attentively, and with empathy, not only in order to publicly denounce the repressive acts I suffered, but also as a space in which I can let go of the stigma attached and reaffirm my status as a woman activist and continue to be politically involved.

Fortunately, the biggest achievement I have accomplished is to overcome the hopelessness.  I survived the torture; although they broke me down, they could not take away my yearning for freedom.  This world is not the horrible place that those perpetrators showed me.

 

 

Italia (Atenco, Estado de México)

Hace 6 años, el 4 de mayo de 2006, fui arrestada y torturada física y sexualmente por agentes de la policía Estatal y Federal en San Salvador Atenco, Estado de México. Este hecho marcó mi vida de forma brutal, conocí el horror que me sumió en miedo y desesperanza, me encontraba quebrantada y no lograba significar lo que me había ocurrido. Entendía la represión conceptualmente, pero no conseguía controlar mis emociones y los efectos físicos derivados de la tortura.

La connotación sexual de la tortura de la que fui objeto agravaba en muchos sentidos mi condición de víctima, el estigma fue un hecho que me afectó gravemente, me llenaba de indignación y rabia que se refirieran a mi y mis compañeras en medios de comunicación como “Las violadas de Atenco” o que en las declaraciones de las autoridades nos dijeran “Mentirosas”.

Recuerdo que mi capacidad para tomar decisiones se encontraba totalmente comprometida, discernir entre hacer o no cualquier cosa, implicaba sentir que no estaba haciendo lo correcto o suficiente, no importaba la índole de la decisión, la culpa me invadía.

Ahora, tras 6 años de trabajo intenso por recuperarme de la tortura, puedo decir que me encuentro mejor, que irremediablemente no puedo ser la misma mujer que era antes, sin embargo he logrado recuperar mi capacidad de tomar decisiones, estoy más en control de mis emociones y soy capaz de lidiar con el miedo, sin que me paralice.

En mi experiencia han sido dos ejes fundamentales los que me han ayudado a continuar con mi vida, por una lado en el ámbito individual contar con un espacio de psicoterapia seguro y de confianza, en el que he conseguido desentrañar el hecho traumático y conseguir avances sustanciales respecto a identificar las afectaciones que hubo en mi cuerpo y mente para reconstruirme. Por otro lado, en el ámbito colectivo generar espacios donde mi testimonio se escucha con atención y empatía no solamente con el único fin de realizar una denuncia pública de la represión, sino como un espacio en donde puedo deshacerme del estigma y reafirmarme como mujer militante y continuar con mi participación política.

Por fortuna el mayor logro que he conseguido es abatir la desesperanza, sobreviví a la tortura, aunque me rompieron no pudieron arrebatarme el anhelo de libertad, este mundo no es el lugar horrible que ellos los perpetradores me mostraron.

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Trauma and torture in armed conflict: A story from Amita in Nepal

Editor’s Note: Rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right: this is the theme of this year’s 26 June campaign for the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. During the next two weeks, we shall be posting testimonies, stories and experiences from torture survivors themselves. Their testimonies explain clearly – rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right.

 

Many survivors of torture come from countries with ongoing armed conflict. In Nepal, the 10-year civil war between Maoists and government forces led to the deaths of approximately 15,000 Nepalis and an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 were displaced as a result. This is the direct testimony of Amita*, which was translated and submitted by member centre Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO), based in Kathmandu.

“At the time, I was 50 years old. Around 100 soldiers came to my house at around 7 am from the district headquarters. They said to me, ‘You have given food and shelter to the combatant, haven’t you?’

“One of the soldiers slapped across the face three times. My face swelled, and I screamed with pain.

“Ten days later, the soldiers came to my house again at 7 am and again abused me. ‘You have given food and shelter to the Maoists, haven’t you?’ At that time, my younger son was in the next home. They pulled him from the house, and a soldier put a gun to his forehead and shot him. My son died on the spot.

“At the same time, they arrested by elder son and took him to jail in the headquarters. He was physically and mentally tortured many times in jail. They kept him there for three months. We appealed to the politicians, and they in turn told the armies. After that, they released him. He was swelling. I shouted. We took my elder son to the hospital for treatment.

“Nowadays, my elder son cannot work. I have stomach problems and swelling. I have lost my younger son. I am an illiterate housewife, and thus, my economic condition is very poor. I have in total four sons and one daughter, but I need both legal and economic support.”

Report from the centre:

Amita was referred to Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) for much-needed psychosocial support. During her counselling sessions, it was discovered that she had been suffering greatly from feelings of irritation and anxiety about day-to-day life – irritation in her daily work, problems with self-care, discussions with other members of the family, crisis in thinking about the future, and confusion over everyday decisions.

Psychosocial counsellors met with Amita and provided much-needed emotional support. After a few sessions, Amita expressed a great improved in her outlook and self-confidence. This case is still ongoing.

 

* not her real name

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Poverty: A cause and effect of torture

Editor’s Note: Rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right: this is the theme of this year’s 26 June campaign for the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. During the next two weeks, we shall be posting testimonies, stories and experiences from torture survivors themselves. Their testimonies explain clearly – rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right.

Poverty is both a cause and effect of torture. Many torture victims face severe economic hardships as a direct result of their torture – the physical and psychological effects of these horrendous experiences can often make it impossible for them to work. Rehabilitation can be an avenue to ameliorate these effects of torture and provide the survivor with economic viability.

 

Swornima* was 44 when she was severely beaten by armed soldiers. About 12 combatants came to her home at around 7pm. They threatened to take her children from her to come and fight in the ongoing armed conflict. Instead, she replied that they could take her instead of her children.

They beat her on her shoulders, backside, hips and legs with wood, striking her more than 12 times across her body. After the beating, Swornima could not stand for two days. She feared the Maoists, and thus could not go to the hospital. She treated herself at home despite the fact that the pain was so severe that she could not sleep.

As a result of the torture, Swornima has suffered severe physical problems and pain, including thyroid problems and a first degree prolapsed uterus (when the muscles that support the uterus fail to various degrees). In addition, she has insomnia, anxiety and flashbacks of the incident. Swornima can no longer work outside of the home.

Transcultural Psychosocial Organization, a Kathmandu-based treatment centre and member of the IRCT, has been able to offer counselling to attend to her emotion and psychological problems as a result of the torture. However, she is in much need of income-generating support, as the torture has caused her to be unable to work and earn money.

*not real name

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“I will never forget what I experienced. But I’m trying to rebuild my destroyed life.”

Mr TK survived torture and the massacre of his village in Kosovo. When you have endured horrific violence and witnessed the murder of your family, how does one recover?

 

Editor’s Note: Rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right: this is the theme of this year’s 26 June campaign for the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. During the next two weeks, we shall be posting testimonies, stories and experiences from torture survivors themselves. Their testimonies explain clearly – rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right.

 

Ongoing armed conflicts, such as the Balkan conflicts that resulted from the dissolution of Yugoslavia, can create such deep collective trauma for a society. Rehabilitation becomes necessary for not only the individual’s process, but a society’s emergence from conflict and community trauma. Read about T.K.’s experience from Kosovo during the conflict with Serbia and about his rehabilitation with the Kosova Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (KRCT).

This is the painful story of Mr T.K, who survived and witnessed the massacre of 47 people, 12 of which where close family members and other relatives.

In 14 May 1999, the Çyshk village (Peja region, Kosovo) was surrounded by Serbian police forces with camouflaged uniforms. They gathered civilians in the centre of village and ordered them to empty their pockets and put gold, money and personal documents in front of them. Men were then separated from women and children and divided into three groups. The three groups were ushered into three houses of the G. family estate.

Police officers first tortured them physically and psychologically by insulting and beating them with hard devices. They then shoot them inside the house. After that they threw in an incendiary device that set the house on fire.

Mr T.K managed to escape through the bullets and fires by jumping from a window of the house and hiding. After killing 47 men, the women and children who had gathered in the centre of the village were ordered to form a convoy and were directed to the Albanian border. When the “people from horror movies”, as Mr T.K. called them, left the village, he and three other survivors removed the dead bodies from the burned houses and hid them; they did so because they were afraid that the police forces might return and take the bodies away in an attempt to cover up the crime.

A few days later, the witnesses and his neighbours buried the bodies of the men who had been shot and burned, including eight in a single large grave.

Experiencing this traumatic situation and killing of loved one caused Mr TK several psychological distresses. He felt detached from others, withdrawn from social activities and unable to re-establish family relationships. Psychological and social wounds of war plagued him for a decade and have interfered with his ability to live a normal life.

He sought psychosocial treatment at KRCT in 2010 and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. After the treatments provided by psychologists and psychiatrists at the centre, his psychological state improved; he started to accept the traumatic experience and to return to his future life with other family members. The frequency of flashbacks of the traumatic events and feelings of anxiety and fear has reduced. He has started to involve himself again in daily activities.

As his psychosomatic complains reduced, and he decreased the level of medications. Concentration thus improved, and he started to read the daily newspapers – a common activity, but one that he could not do for more than a decade.

“I will never forget what I experienced,” he says, “But I’m trying to rebuild my destroyed life.”

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Rebuilding life after sexual violence and torture: the story of Helen from Kenya

She was raped and tortured for 24 hours by armed soldiers at Mt Elgon; but Helen has now rebuilt her life with a new husband and a baby with the help of a rehabilitation centre in Kenya.

Editor’s Note: Rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right: this is the theme of this year’s 26 June campaign for the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. During the next two weeks, we shall be posting testimonies, stories and experiences from torture survivors themselves. Their testimonies explain clearly – rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right.

Mount Elgon District is a small, rural area in western Kenya that has long been in a conflict that escalated in 2005 when the rebel group Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) took up arms in a land dispute. The Kenyan military were dispatched to the area in 2008. Reports quickly emerged that the Kenyan military had followed the tactics of the rebel group: both armed forced were accused of ongoing assaults, kidnapping, torture and murder of Mt. Elgon residents. Mwatikho Torture Survivors Organization (MATESO), a human rights organisation and IRCT member centre in Kenya, has been at the forefront of documenting the cases there and treating the victims of torture. Watch their 30-minute documentary on the Mount Elgon conflict and the human rights violations.

Helen lives in Mt Elgon, an area that has been affected by conflict since 1992 to date. Nearing the election period in 2006, an organised militia sprung up called Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF); they extorted, tortured, raped, abducted and forced disappeared, murdered and evicted people from the mountain.

Helen, a resident of Chemuses, was tortured and sexually abused by the SLDF in 2007. She was still living in the Mt. Elgon region, with her husband and four children, in August of 2008 when a group of five men came into her compound.

At around 5pm, Helen was home when the men came to her compound. They asked for her husband, but he was not at home. They demanded to know how many of the SLDF she knew; since they alleged that she went round talking about them. She declined and that is when they kidnapped her and brought her to an unknown place.

There, they blindfolded her, raped her in turns and even beat her for almost 24 hours. The following day she was unconscious, but they did not let her go. She was told to open her mouth where one of them urinated and yet another forced her to eat human feces.

After all this, they left her, but she was nearly unable to walk home because of the pain she had. She forced herself up because she believed that if she continued to stay there, others might come and continue the torture. She tried, and thankfully, a person helped her home.

When she made it home, her husband took her to hospital where she was treated and tested for HIV/AIDS. Later on that husband rejected her, alleging that she was infected with HIV/AIDS and other venereal diseases. In this domestic dispute, she lost her child as a result of family negligence and the stigmatisation she underwent.

She also lost her first husband but found a new one, with whom she now has one child.

MAHTESO intervened in the case providing Helen with treatment and counseling. They have set routine home-based visits and care. Although she had been treated before, it was not enough as she still complained of chest pain and backache. Helen and her family still have a long way to go – they require counseling sessions about once or twice a month. But with the organisation’s ongoing support, Helen is moving towards an increasingly full and healthy life.

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Tortured by police, Kunja overcomes emotional distress through rehabilitation

Editor’s Note: Rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right: this is the theme of this year’s 26 June campaign for the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. During the next two weeks, we shall be posting testimonies, stories and experiences from torture survivors themselves. Their testimonies explain clearly – rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right.

Many testimonies from survivors focus on their experience of torture. Others focus on their rehabilitation through the more than 140 centres in our worldwide network, who treat the victims of torture through a variety of holistic rehabilitative methods so that they might live as full life as possible after their experiences. This story comes to us from Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO), which was founded in 2005 and is based in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Kunja* is a primary school teacher from the western district of Nepal. She was tortured, both mentally and physically, by the police in 2008. As a result of her torture, Kunja has had many behavioural and emotional problems. She could not sleep and constantly fell from her bed at night. She felt a deep sense of anger, isolation, fear and feelings of guilt. She often suffered from high palpitations, as her heart rate would increase, and felt uneasy breathing.

Kunja wanted to return to a sense of normalcy, but with these symptoms, she often feared mental illness or disorder.

Initially, Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) provided emotional support through their Reproductive Health Camp. Later, Kunja came three times to the same camp for counseling. She asked the organisation to help her overcome the emotional, psychological and physical problems she faced as a result of being tortured by the police. Kunja was referred to the central office of TPO in Kathmandu for clinical services.

At the central office, Kunja received special care and clinical counseling to improve her emotional state; she later came two more times to Kathmandu for follow-up sessions.

The counseling services at TPO addressed an array of problems that Kunja faced from her torture – the lack of sleep, fears of mental illness and worries about her relationship with her husband. The counseling services there helped to her to improve her sleeping issues and negative thoughts about her future life and relationship with her husband. Kunja very thankfully reports that she has a positive and supportive family that are helping her and supporting her in overcoming these problems. Unfortunately, she still faces ongoing problems with asthma.

However, with a trustworthy and supportive home environment, Kunja says now that she is very hopefully for the future and is very happy for that hope.

*name has been changed

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In EURO 2012, Ukraine already lost – in human rights violations and torture

The UEFA EURO 2012 kicks off today and the anticipation is thick.

This year, however, the traditional boisterous talk about the tournament has been accompanied by debates over human rights in one of the host countries, Ukraine.

It seems like a continuing trend – human rights debates that encircle international events when the spotlight is on a despotic host country. We’ve seen it in the South African World Cup, Bahrain’s Formula 1 and most recently Azerbaijan’s hosting of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest.

As the EURO 2012 approaches (kick-off of the first match between Poland and Greece in Warsaw takes this evening), several European leaders have declared they will boycott the games. Most have decried the treatment of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who began a seven-year prison sentence last year after, what some have called politically-motivated charges of abuse of office and tax evasion. Many have criticised her treatment in prison, where she has also previously been on hunger strike, regarding abuse and a lack of medical treatment for her back pain.

While the actual benefit of a boycott remains to be seen, pro-democracy and Ukrainian boxer Vitali Klitschko views the event as vital for bringing international attention to the human rights problems there:

This tournament is the biggest sporting event in the history of Ukraine. It has to happen. It is even an excellent opportunity to draw the world’s attention to the maladministration in our country.

Moreover, others have pointed to the ongoing use of torture and inhuman treatment by the Ukrainian police force. Many have warned incoming tourists and football fans to be especially aware of their behaviour in the Ukraine during the matches – the mix of football, nationalism and alcohol has typically brought with it a handful of arrests.

Although against what he calls the “politicization of sports,” Klitschko has told Der Spiegel, “Athletes also need to be clear about what is happening in a country in which they are competing. Think about the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. At the time, regime opponents were tortured and killed by the military junta, in some instances in the very stadiums where the World Cup matches were later played.”

And what is happening in Ukraine often amounts to torture.

“They electrocuted him, until he passed out, and poured toxic liquid down his throat to revive him”

Check out this video from Amnesty International that describes ongoing allegations of torture committed by police officers in Ukraine.

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