Archive for category From our members
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a regular series from centres involved in the Peer Support project (more fully described in our earlier blog here). See other previous posts in this series here, here, here, here and here.
“Our mission is to help, and when we feel that someone is trying to help us, this creates a good feeling and gives us wings for go on our mission”
In everyday life, working with victims of torture generates stressful moments. Why? Because we are always confronted with persons whose needs are many and varied, and our ability to cover their needs are often very limited. Our mission is to help, but we cannot always do so. This spirit of bitterness depletes us little by little. We remain marked by a sad story of life, a crippled body and a suffering soul.
How do we unload our soul? How do we free ourselves from what we have gained and what ails us?
All these questions arose in my mind many years ago. Ever since, I always tried to find new answers, new solutions. I started my work for victims of torture 13 years ago as director of MRCT Craiova Romania. Eight-hundred twenty-nine patients are registered at our centre. Every year we regularly assist 140 people with approximately 660 medical consultations and 2,400 physiotherapy sessions. The services are provided by the organization staff consisting of 11 persons. For information on who we are and what we do you can to our website: www.icarmed.ro.
One of the major problems I faced during all these years was to retain staff considering that the financial resources for salaries were always poor. In these circumstances, I think it is important for employees to have a job that comes with love, and to be part of a team in which everyone is united with the other for better and for the worse. This is a difficult goal to achieve, but great things are an accumulation of little things and I think that every step is important.
One step was to devise a questionnaire in order to try to know more about the mood of the team — hardships in facing problems that grind desires and aspirations. For me this questionnaire was and is useful. I chose this way of communication because often, when we stand all together, with all eyes glued to us when we speak, we find it difficult to express what we think, what we are upset about and what we want. The questionnaire is outlined on the bottom of this blogpost, and might be interesting for debate to improve it or maybe as a tool for partners in Peer Support Project.
Another important step is our participation to the Peer Support project, which is driven by a valuable team of project managers and trainers from whom we acquire knowledge. We learned best practices and applied them in our daily work to improve the well-being of the organisation.
We learned when to use the clinical intervision method, which helps us find better solutions to resolving the difficult cases. Since February, we have had monthly clinical intervision sessions.
After the Barcelona training, we realized that is very important to have a defined strategy for stress management in our organisation.
Another positive aspect of the Peer Support project is that we feel good to see how the three leading organisations (IRCT, Antares, bzfo) made their experience and expertise available in support of the six newly participating organisations to acquire similar skills. It simply feels so good when you see that someone wants to do something for you!
By Simona Smarandache, Director of MRCT Craiova Romania
- NAME ……………………………………………………
- DATE OF EMPLOYMENT………………………………………………………
- DATE OF COMPLETION…………………………………………………..
- WORK PROGRAMME ……………………………………………………….
- Do you know your responsibilities according to your job description? Institutional Code of Conduct? Organizational Code of Conduct?
- Describe the activity which you perform in the centre:
- What problems do you have regarding your activity, who/ what generates them, what solution do you think there are for resolving them?
- What dissatisfactions do you have?
- What are your expectations?
- Do you want to continue your activity within the centre? If YES, for how long? For a short/ medium long period of time? What are your aspirations?
- How do you see your activity in the future?
- What does MRCT Craiova represents for you?
- Do you have disagreements with your colleagues? But complaints about them?
- Do you have disagreements with your superiors? But complaints about them?
- Do you have disagreements with the director of the centre? But complaints about him/her?
- Are you satisfied with the working conditions, with the working environment in the centre? What are your suggestions and wishes in this respect?
- Do you have family problems? Are these problems related to your work place?
- Do you have any health problems? What are them? Are these problems caused by your work?
- Are you satisfied with your salary? Do you feel it is according to your efforts?
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a regular series from centres involved in the Peer Support project (more fully described in our earlier blog here). See other previous posts in this series here, here, here and here.
My colleague Tony is preparing for his second week of training in Intervision .Shortly after that, we will host a visit by the programme trainers and leaders in which we hope to move the lessons learned through our organisation by offering training to key staff. Much more on that in the next blog post!
As we have a small team in our North East of England Centre where Tony and I work, we are very easily able to pilot different approaches to work. For some time we have been organising regular Away Days for both staff and volunteers. We have sometimes gone to a retreat centre out in the countryside away from the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, where we are based, and we most often use this time for reviewing and planning our work programmes.
As a result of the Self Care training programme that Tony has been involved in designing, which I mentioned in the previous blog. As a result, we decided to arrange a smaller Away Day for the Clinical Team – those working therapeutically with survivors of torture. I now see this as an integral part of the broader Peer Support Project.
After some discussion, we decided we would go to each other’s homes to meet and that the host would prepare lunch. I was worried that we were invading each other’s personal space and even adding additional stress to each other, but soon saw that we all enjoyed taking care of our colleagues by the simple act of offering food. We are open to moving to a neutral venue, but so far the positives of going to each other’s homes have been substantial.
By now, we have met in this way three times. Each meeting has been valuable. The sense of distance from work by being in each other’s homes has helped us to get a deeper connection to each other that allows an intimacy that is very important in helping us support each other.
We structure the time based on a loose version of Intervision, where each worker can speak uninterruptedly about the impact that our work has on them, the challenges they face and the detail of the therapy they are trying to achieve. In the end, questions asked and comments are made in the spirit of Intervision.
We have been able to share thoughts and feelings that we find difficult to disclose even to our clinical supervisors —while they are often very experienced therapists and supervisors with an interest in trauma, they usually aren’t specialists in torture trauma therapy.
We have discovered that we were frightened of hurting them with the horrible details of the torture our clients have experienced. Yet we were holding such material inside ourselves, and we were unwilling to tell even our closest colleagues in case of adding to their burden.
Now we seem more able and willing to share such material and also our reactions to working as therapists with that.
In one meeting, I recall saying that there are times when I feel like I don’t want to hear any more about torture for a day. One of our teams shared that they will often go for a walk along the riverside near our offices when they need a break. I often make an espresso and look out of the window at the world passing by, and near our offices there is much to see. Nearby is a hotel where many people, who want to go to parties in our city, will stay and they often wear fancy dress – sometimes I see 10 men dressed as Superman, or in clothing for playing tennis with huge inflatable tennis rackets.
That helps me to see the funny side of this world that isn’t tainted by torture and is a valuable part of putting our work in proportion, as well as encouraging a sense of humour.
The away days have helped us to become a closer, more understanding and more supportive team.
Next week, we have a further such Away Day for the Clinical Team. I’ll ask if I can take some photos for this blog.
By Alan Brice, Centre Manager, North East Centre, Freedom from Torture
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a regular series from centres involved in the Peer Support project (more fully described in our earlier blog here). See other previous posts in this series here, here and here.
I work for Freedom from Torture (previously known as the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture) as Manager of our centre in the North East of England in Newcastle upon Tyne. We have a big centre in London and others that are smaller around the country in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. More than 50,000 survivors of torture have been helped since we started our work over 25 years ago. We employ about 170 staff (the majority are part-time) and are delighted to have about the same number of volunteers working with us.
We have been developing a training programme for staff on Self Care recently. Tony Wright, who is in my team in the North East Centre, was involved in its design and delivery. Tony is a therapist who also leads training initiatives for us in the North East. The Self Care programme is designed to help staff know more about how working with survivors of torture — hearing their stories, feeling their distress, typing reports documenting torture — impacts on each member of staff. With greater understanding and greater awareness of the damage that can be done to staff, the programme then encourages staff to reflect on how they can be healthier in the work.
When we heard of the Peer Support Project, we were both very interested to be involved. As the Centre Manager, I am also a therapist and am part of the National Clinical Secretariat that oversees clinical issues in the organisation. Taking care of our clients means taking care of each other. If we are not healthy and working to our best we cannot support our clients through the terrible traumas they have experienced. It was a really valuable addition that Celine Conaghan, our Human Resources Manager, was also keen to join the Peer Support project team.
We learned a lot in the week in Barcelona – the trainers worked us pretty hard – and we began to think differently about how to organise ourselves to help each other better. Having the chance to talk with staff in other organisations across Europe was really valuable. It gave us ideas and perspectives that we did not expect. Hearing about the Intervision approach and discussing how others have applied it, made us interested in applying it to our own context.
We did manage to have a little time away from the subject of Peer Support project and many of us went to la Sagrada Família, the amazing church designed by the architect Gaudi. Attached are a couple of photos from our visit there – the light flooding into the building through the stained glass is astonishing.
We noticed a statue near the entrance that was very evocative of the suffering we encounter in our work.
Tony and I found the Foundation of the Catalan artist Antoni Tapies, who was born in Barcelona. One of his pieces of art, a rolled up mattress, reminded us of the experience of many people forced to flee their homes across the world to find safety, food and welcome and who can take just a few items like such a mattress with them.
Back home the three of us have carefully discussed how we can introduce the learning from Barcelona into the work of our organisation. In the North East we have established regular Away Days for the staff team when we can get away from the office and hear each other’s concerns and achievements also. Nationally across the organisation, Celine has sent lots of information around so that staff and volunteers are informed and involved. We want them to be as excited as we are. We are looking forward to the Project Support Visit, which we hope will be in June. During that visit we intend to introduce aspects of Peer Support to the Senior Managers of the organisation and to selected teams. By then Tony will have been on his second additional training on applying Intervision, and we plan to roll out that training across the organisation after that. Next time we blog we will be explaining how our Away Days are working.
By Alan Brice, Centre Manager, North East Centre, Freedom from Torture
Growing pains: Austrian centre examines its organisational structure to cope with its growing client base
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a regular series from centres involved in the Peer Support project (more fully described in our earlier blog here). See other previous posts in this series here and here.
In Arabic, “Hemayat” means protection and support. Hemayat is a politically independent and non-profit organisation based in Vienna, Austria. We provide interpreter-mediated psychotherapy, psychological consulting and medical support for survivors of war and torture.
Working in this field means to be confronted not only with the trauma of our clients, but also with their current situation. The insecurity of their asylum process makes it difficult to create a safe space in the therapeutic setting. Sometimes it forces the therapists to fight for the rights of their patients to stay. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work, which forces them to live in poverty. Right wing parties and parts of society view asylum seekers as people who want to exploit the social welfare system. All this puts pressure not only on the patient but also on the therapist.
As an organisation, we are confronted with far more people who seek our help than we can accommodate. It has been like this for years although the organisation has constantly been growing. But growth also means that we need new structures. In 2012 our therapists, psychologists and our psychiatrists treated – oft with the assistance of trained translators – 692 people from 46 different countries.
When we received the invitation to participate in the Peer Support Project, we thought that this could be a space to learn about the experiences of other centres and how they deal with similar problems. We also hoped for practical advice in our restructuring. Once the Peer Support Project started, the project led our attention towards the topic of staff well-being. As mentioned above, our staff works in an extremely challenging field. To relieve some of the stress caused by this type of work, we held supervision on a regular basis. The Peer Support Project also introduced us to a new tool: the intervision model.
As we are taking the first steps in the change of our structure, we also want to implement the intervision model in our centre. In April, a meeting for all staff is scheduled to discuss the intervision model, and we hope that we can soon report that it is working. In addition, we hope that this model will help our staff to cope even more effectively with the stress presented by our work.
By Nora Ramirez Castillo (psychologist, responsible for the first interviews and coordination with therapists and translators Hemayat)
No state support, little funding: how Bulgaria centre manages to treat torture victims in trying times
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a regular series from centres involved in the Peer Support project (more fully described in our previous blog here).
In Bulgaria, the problems of asylum seekers and refugees are not being sufficiently discussed. Yet, the problems of torture victims are even more neglected. The attempts to initiate and sustain a dialogue on this vulnerable group of people with Bulgarian state institutions that deal with asylum seekers and refugees have until now been met with disregard. There is no Bulgarian municipality or state-run institution that provides funding for the support of torture victims.
This is the environment in which Assistance Centre for Torture Survivors (ACET) — the only Bulgarian organisation that offers services to torture victims — is trying to develop a rehabilitation programme. Over the last couple of years, the team of ACET has gone through serious funding-related challenges and difficulties.
The team of ACET consists of five psychologists, a psychiatrist, a social worker who is responsible for a great part of the administrative work, and three translators. All of them work part-time. Over the last years, since the professionals have started working part-time, the rehabilitation programme of ACET serves just more than 100 people per year and the consultations take place at the office of ACET, at the Reception Center of the State Agency for Refugees, and at the Special Home for Temporary Placement of Foreign Nationals in Busmantsi.
When we learnt about the option to take part in Peer Support project, our team saw an opportunity for support as ACET was not able to provide its team with stress prevention activities. Due to financial difficulties, we had stopped receiving clinical supervision and having the weekly meetings of the team, as most of the consultants could not invest more time than stipulated for meetings with the clients of the rehabilitation programme.
This is why we saw in Peer Support project as an opportunity for overcoming the fragmentation of the team and its gradual marginalisation, and a chance to create a new model to deal with stress. In addition, the exchange of experiences with colleagues from various European rehabilitation centres has always been inspiring for us, and this project has given us such an opportunity.
During the needs assessment visit in November 2012, we already experienced the advantages of our participation in the project. With the help of the Peer Support project team, we managed to identify some important steps towards improving the communication within the organisation and the planning of our activities. We have identified steps for improving the management of the organisation, the delegation and distribution of administrative tasks that — in the context of a restricted budged — should be managed by the clinical specialists. As a result of the Peer Support project team and the offered recommendations, we renewed the weekly meetings of the team.
The training in the method of intervision during our meeting in Barcelona has enabled the decrease of tension among the team members and triggered ideas about how to overcome the accumulated problems. With the help of the intervision technique, we managed to constructively overcome the misunderstandings in the team related to the communication strategy with the still quite unresponsive Bulgarian state institutions that deal with asylum seekers and refugees.
We are now looking forward to ANTARES’ visit in order to gain insights about creating a pre-accession training for everybody who will become part of our team in the years to come.
By Kristina Gologanova, social worker and assistant project coordinator, Assistance Centre for Torture Survivors (ACET)
Although a global problem, torture takes shape in different ways in different contexts. Tackling it is also a local challenge, with human rights defenders asking, how does torture happen here?
PRAWA, or Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action, is a Nigerian rehabilitation and advocacy organisation and member of the IRCT. They have developed a methodology and series of programmes to prevent torture from happening in the first place, one that is nearly so obvious and simple.
In Nigeria, torture happens in prisons. It happens when people come in contact with police and prison authorities. It happens through the horrific and inhumane conditions of prisons.
There is a vast problem of crime in Nigeria, says Godwin Ugbor, a psychologist at PRAWA based in their Enugu headquarters. This is mostly related to dire poverty and hunger. While the country itself is rich from oil – one of the largest oil producers in the world – this wealth has not been distributed widely. It’s the 49th most unequal country, meaning any wealth is only held by a few.
“There is just so much hunger,” Godwin says. The result of that poverty and inequality, he explains, is rampant crime.
Furthermore, the high rate of crime in Nigeria means there is increased pressure on police services to function well and arrest perpetrators – but they suffer from the same poverty and lack of proper funding and training as the rest of the country.
“Because they don’t have the skills, they resort to torture,” he says.
So, one of PRAWA’s approaches to preventing torture – keep people out of the judicial system. Although people are sometimes implicated and tortured for crimes they never committed, the best method of prevention is to ensure that the young don’t become involved in criminal activity. Additionally, they work with the police and justice system apparatuses to bring about a human rights ethic to their work. And for those in prison, PRAWA provides psychological rehabilitation during their sentences and through the transition to public life. If most torture occurs in prisons and police lock-ups, then PRAWA rehabilitates prisoners.
Godwin has only been a psychologist for a year and a half, but he’s jumped into this work quickly, almost ‘overwhelmingly’, he says. It’s never-ending work, with prisoners and other clients calling at all hours.
“Your personal life is lost.”
Godwin started working with prisoners during an internship, one of four he had during his studies to become a psychologist.
“The system is so flawed and the conditions in prison so terrible, you develop a great deal of sympathy. It is a large group of people that really need help.”
Terrible may be an understatement. “Say they built a prison for 100, maybe 400 people will be living there. It’s extremely overcrowded. A cell for five, may have 20 people. There are bad sanitary conditions. Not good personnel working there. And really horrible food.”
Godwin says for those living under these conditions – often in long sentences or remaining there for months or years after they should be released due to flawed judicial processes – can develop chronic mental illnesses. Many prisons now have asylum cells for the mentally ill. He gets calls from them sometimes as late as 10pm, desperate for help and someone to talk to.
However, Godwin’s work has taken a turn recently to focus more on prevention – ensuring that the youth of Nigeria don’t get caught up in crime and risk arrest, becoming entangled with the judicial system and thus tortured.
The Illegal Migration Awareness Project (IMAP) trains youth and peer educators on the issues of illegal migration, a particularly relevant issue in Nigeria, Godwin says.
“Many youth want to leave the country and live without violence,” he says. But the impact of illegal migration can bring dire consequences. Many try to migrate across the desert, some dying during the journey. Others steal money, purchasing fake visas and passports and can be caught by officials. Those who make it abroad may have to resort to crime and theft to make ends meet.”
The education to peer leaders includes understanding alternatives to violence – training youth on how to handle certain situations without resorting to violence and aggression. Finally, career guidance programmes on vocational training and entrepreneurship assist youth in earning money, building a career, attending university and supporting themselves rather than turning to crime and theft.
“When I was in university, I would make shirts, shirts like this,” Godwin says while tugging at the fabric of his blue button-down. “That meant I was able to make enough money to support myself and attend school.”
It is methods like PRAWA’s that demonstrate the multi-faceted problem of torture – how problems of poverty increase one’s vulnerability to torture. And stopping torture means tackling it from all sides.
The day saw an unprecedented number of organisations around the world come together to mark the day, to stand in solidarity with survivors of torture and to remind the world that rehabilitation for torture survivors not only works, it is a right to which they are entitled.
As Joost Martens, IRCT Secretary-General says in his foreword to the report,
Each year, on 26 June, we pause to commemorate and honour the victims of torture, both historic and present. The day has been marked since 1988, which was the first anniversary of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, signed on 26 June 1987.
Yet today, despite its absolute prohibition, torture continues to be a global phenomenon: both physical and psychological torture is 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 marginalised groups, in particular the poor, but also minority groups, such as ethnic, religious and sexual minorities.
The day gives us a time to pause and remember those who have suffered, and stand with those who continue to suffer, for, the effects of torture continue long after the actual act has happened.
These are some of the photos we got from 26 June events around the world:
At the IRCT, we have often reiterated the link between poverty and torture: those in poverty are among vulnerable populations at great risk of being tortured, and torture itself can often push people into further poverty by impinging on their mental and physical well-being.
Over at Freedom From Torture, a member of the IRCT and a UK-based rehabilitation centre, they have pointed to another example of how poverty and torture are sadly intertwined: the poverty of torture victims in the UK makes it increasingly difficult for rehabilitation to be effective.
For the 2012 UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, recognised every year on 17 October, they discussed their soon-to-be-released research on how “both the impact of poverty on our clients’ mental health and rehabilitation, and exactly how being a survivor of torture affects the way individuals are able to cope with poverty.” They found that:
Many participants in the research described feeling that as asylum seekers they are treated as somehow inhuman by the government and the communities they live in, which they believed had worsened their mental health problems:
Outside [Freedom from Torture] it’s as if they are making us remember our hardships every day, and you can easily become crazy.”
Read there full blog post here at the Freedom From Torture website.
How IRCT Pakistan member is confronting the country’s problems
Upon meeting Khalida Salimi, she almost immediately thanked me for being among the ‘young people’ entering into the field of anti-torture work.
“We need more young people to eventually take over for us,” she explains. Salimi views the anti-torture movement as just that – a movement of human rights defenders worldwide, where new, young people must take up the cause and move forward the great strides the elder generation has started.
Salimi herself started working in this field around 20 years ago. She founded the Pakistani centre SACH Struggle for Change in 1994 as part of the growing movement for human rights in her country. She is a trained sociologist, which explains her commitment to a multi-disciplinary approach to the rehabilitation of torture survivors in a field largely dominated by doctors and lawyers. A multi-faceted view, she says, is highly necessary when working in a country beset by large-scale and ongoing poverty, armed conflict while acting as a recipient of a massive population of Afghan refugees from the long history of conflict in the neighbouring country.
Among those various views on how to tackle the problem of torture, Salimi has dedicated herself to continued engagement with all levels of both civil society and government. “A holistic approach,” she explains, “means we need to address and reach the police, the judiciary, the prison systems and then of course the medical professionals and lawyers.”
Reaching the police in particular has been a long—term process, one most recently partially supported by the Non-State Actors (NSA) project from the IRCT, of which SACH is a member. Initially, SACH had to reach out to the police authorities to offer them training on sensitisation of human rights and the law. Now, she reports, the relevant government authorities are reaching out to SACH and requesting further training from the NGO.
“They (police authorities) have moved from denial to acceptance that torture exists and it is a problem.”
The project has assisted Salimi’s organisation in producing manuals for police training to continue the ongoing process of ingraining a culture of human rights. “At the very least, we should ensure a baseline – that the police understand that there is a right to life, a right to dignity.” Now, several police stations in Islamabad have posters with the definition of torture, translated into Urdu, hanging on their walls, thanks to the work of SACH. And in February of this year, the organisation held a training session for nearly 50 prison staff from 8 prisons in the Faisalabad region on the definition of torture, the effects of torture and on improved prison management techniques.
And this is indeed a long and ongoing process, she emphasises, especially in a country that has fundamental challenges in its capacity to address several problems. Take the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT), for example. SACH was fundamental in convincing the Pakistani government to sign and ratify the treaty, a process that took many years. Part of that challenge, Salimi says, was convincing the relevant government authorities that Pakistan could indeed comply with the Convention.
The UNCAT, among the fundamental international treaties that prohibits the use of torture, obligates the states that have ratified it to report on certain requirements. Has that country criminalised torture in their domestic laws? Have they neglected to investigate claims of torture? Has the country rendered individuals to a third country where they could have been tortured? The monitoring of the UNCAT obligations requires that countries report on these issues regularly.
The government authorities in Pakistan, she says, attributed their reluctance to sign and ratify the UNCAT because they worried about having the ability to respond to these reporting requirements. But they did it in the end: on 23 June 2010, Pakistan ratified the treaty. One year later to the day, SACH, in coordination with several other civil society organisations, held a workshop with several government ministers to facilitate their reporting to the United Nations on the Convention.
However, SACH’s engagement isn’t limited to the government and preventing torture, but also working with the victims of torture around the country. One aspect of holistic rehabilitation to which they are committed is engagement with torture victims and their families through livelihood training.
“We don’t want to simply give people fish; we need to teach them to fish.”
Many of the survivors they work with have been given a small subsistence allowance through the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Through technical and financial cooperation with the IRCT, they have worked with dozens of survivors to improve their skills to create viable small enterprises.
“These are small-scale enterprises, such as vegetable carts in the markets. But we meet with the survivors and analyse their skills. Then we provide a basic adult education, such as understanding the finances of pricing items.”
Overall, it is the potential for the global movement that most excites Salimi. Through the NSA project the IRCT is facilitating capacity development for centres through exchanges and sharing knowledge with other centres around the world.
The torturers can always come up with new ways to torture people, she says, so the networks of torture rehabilitation centres around the world can help the caregivers make sure they stay ahead.
“The perpetrators are powerful, while the care providers may not have the resources, power and time. But by building our networks and becoming connected, the caregivers are united against torture.”
Early this year the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture stated in its review of Brazil that “impunity for acts of torture was pervasive” in the country.
However, following the recent conviction of a colonel for crimes of torture, a new wave of optimism and hope is sweeping the country. Paulo Vannuchi, the former minister who pushed for the establishment of the truth commission in Brazil, is spearheading the wave. He stated, “the impunity has been broken.”
And that wave is not small. The Brazilian truth commission, which began in May and has a two-year mandate, has already received hundreds of recommendations from civil society organisations around the country. These organisations are calling for the government to not only list but prosecute those responsible for the alleged crimes of torture committed during the dictatorship despite a 1979 amnesty that shelters military officials from prosecution.
Open the archives, don’t create new ones
Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais (GTNM), an IRCT member organisation based in Rio de Janeiro, has for many years been at the forefront of calls for the establishment of a truth commission in Brazil. However, the organisation, which has recently been threatened and seen its office targeted by burglars, is not being swept up in the wave of optimism about recent developments.
A little over a month after the commission’s work began, GTNM issued a statement which read: “the national truth commission has been showing their real objectives, and their perverse limitations”.
According to GTNM, the core of the matter is that the dictatorship archives have been kept hidden for years, and instead of making them public, the truth commission is creating new ones, in a measure thought to persuade the perpetrators to reveal details about the crimes of the military regime. GTNM asks whether the commission isn’t just helping to “cover the crimes and its perpetrators?”
Ultimately, the amnesty law remains untouched, and the truth commission won’t have the power to act against those involved in the crimes. Furthermore, the commission is not obliged to release its findings and an eventual list of torturers might be shared with the defence minister and the president only. To further curb the optimist, the small team of seven men and women has only two years to heal the wounds of more than 40 years and turn the page.
The dictatorship in Brazil killed an estimated 400 people; torture victims are estimated to number in the thousands, including, most notably, the nation’s president Dilma Rousseff.