Posts Tagged Nepal

Three months on: Torture rehabilitation centres helping earthquake victims in Nepal

Three months after a series of devastating earthquakes shook Nepal to its core, the country is still scrambling to rebuild. According to Red Cross, one in four Nepalese have been affected, many of whom are suffering from the trauma that arises from experiencing a natural disaster this size. Along with other organisations, two IRCT members are on the ground, working tirelessly to support victims of the earthquake with psychological first aid.

April’s earthquakes took the lives of more than 8,000 Nepalese and left hundreds of thousands injured and homeless.

“Many people lost their life when their houses collapsed,” Jamuna Poudyal from Kathmandu based organisation Centre for Victims of Torture (CVICT) told us back in April, trying to comprehend the sheer scale of the disaster.

“People in the Kathmandu Valley still feel that their life is in danger because of the many aftershocks,” she explained.

Three months on and people are still suffering from psychological problems, while trying to rebuild their lives.

Responding to the need for Psychological First Aid (PFA), CVICT and another local torture rehabilitation centre Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Nepal (TPO Nepal) are on the ground, supporting thousands of earthquake victims.

With staff working across the major affected districts, the two centres have helped thousands of victims, by offering various services such as PFA, clinical support and psychosocial counselling.

TPO Nepal Training of Trainers and Supervisors in Kathmandu. Courtesy of TPO Nepal

TPO Nepal Training of Trainers and Supervisors in Kathmandu. Courtesy of TPO Nepal

“We train mental health and psychosocial support frontline workers in Psychological First Aid that includes basic psychosocial support, listening skills and referrals,” explains TPO Nepal’s Executive Manager Suraj Koirala, “they then train non-mental health experts, such as volunteers, NGO staff, teachers, health workers and social workers in psychological first aid and other mental health and psychosocial care.”

By including training in its earthquake response, TPO Nepal is able to address the urgent and short-term psychological needs of those affected. At this point, the centre has already reached out to more than 10,000 people.

TPO Nepal is also operating a toll free helpline for victims of the earthquake. Managed by psychosocial counsellors, the helpline offers support to people in need.

“We encourage people to call the number if they experience emotional distress or grief; feel weak or have a lot of body pains; or if they are struggling with thoughts about hurting themselves; or if there are psychosocial problems in the family,” explains Suraj.

While the world’s attention is no longer on Nepal, organisations like CVICT and TPO Nepal continue to help people whose lives were shattered by the earthquakes.

“The demand for mental health and psychosocial services continues to be high. These people have experienced death and destruction and now they are trying to rebuild their lives. But without mental health and psychosocial support they may not overcome their trauma,” notes Suraj.

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Voices from Nepal: Life amid the rubble and the ruins

It has been nearly a week since a devastating earthquake ripped through Nepal, leaving a trail of death and destruction. With a death toll in the thousands and more casualties to come, the impoverished kingdom is struggling to provide shelter and relief to the survivors. Among the rubble is IRCT member centre, Centre for Victims of Torture (CVICT) that explains how Nepal’s need for help extends far beyond the immediate aid efforts.

“We all are safe at CVICT, but we are still feeling scared and only stay at open places,” writes CVICT’s Jamuna Poudyal in an email after letting us know that all staff at the torture rehabilitation centre are safe.

Based in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, Ms Poudyal and her colleagues witnessed how the 7.8-magnitude earthquake – Nepal’s worst in 80 years – levelled historical monuments and whole buildings in just a matter of few moments.

“Many people lost their life when their houses collapsed,” says Ms Poudyal. “People in the Kathmandu Valley still feel that their life is in danger because of the many aftershocks.”

Nepal (Courtesy of UK Department for International Development, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Nepal (Courtesy of UK Department for International Development, via Flickr Creative Commons)

According to the UN, more than eight million people in Nepal have been affected by the earthquake and some 70,000 houses have been destroyed.

Shailendra Guragain, also from CVICT, explains how priorities have suddenly changed at the centre: “Torture victims are not the first priority this week. People in jail and custody living without roof and without medicine are also not a priority now. Wounded people from the disaster is our current top priority.”

But as the world is concentrating on reaching out to as many people as possible and providing necessities such as shelter, food, medicine and clothes to the survivors, Ms Poudyal makes a point of highlighting the urgent need for psychological assistance to the people who have witnessed death and destruction on a scale that most of us cannot fathom.

“The government of Nepal and most of the aid organisations present in Nepal are focusing on relief packages, including medical and food. But people are suffering from psychological problems as well,” explains Poudyal.

“There is a huge need for psychological first aid to the people.”

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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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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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Monday News Updates: Human Rights Day Edition

My first job of every day is to scour the news for articles on cases of torture, changes in national or international legislation, or opinion pieces. Monday’s are the longest – from Saturday to Monday, there are a huge number of articles to sort through.

This Monday was exceptional in its volume. International Human Rights Day, 10 December, was Saturday, and I am grateful to see many newspapers, Op-Ed writers, and organisations take the opportunity to focus on the issue of torture. As such, below I will simply provide the links and titles from Human Rights Day 2011.

Pakistan: Human Rights Day: ‘Include a course on human rights in the curriculum’ (The Express Tribune)

Pakistan: Human rights violations: Criminalisation of torture demanded (The Express Tribune)

Maldives: President hopes for investigation of torture against inmates (Miadhu News)

Human Rights Day: Seizing a historic opportunity to end torture in the Middle East and North Africa – Ten steps against torture (World Organisation Against Torture – OMCT.org)

Hope and Change: The Arab Spring Dominated the Headlines, But 2011 Saw Other Landmark Human Rights Victories (The Huffington Post)

ASIA: The state of human rights in Asia on International Human Rights Day 2011 (Asian Human Rights Commission)

NEPAL : An Appeal from the Center for Victims of Torture to the government of Nepal on the occasion of the international Human Rights Day (Centre for Victims of Torture – Nepal)

The 16 Days Campaign: Hope, Strength and Power Prevail (Physicians for Human Rights)

Violence against women in post-conflict (Amnesty International – USA)

 

By Tessa

 

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Monday News Updates

Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we will post updates on ongoing cases of torture, new opinion pieces in the media, or news stories or issues that emerge.

The CIA’s impunity on ‘torture tapes’ // The Guardian.uk

What triggered this duo’s uncharacteristic accusatory outburst was the revelation that the CIA had purposely destroyed numerous videos of interrogation sessions it had conducted with al-Qaida operatives (destroyed were 92 videos, showing hundreds of hours of interrogations).
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Despite all that, there have been no legal consequences whatsoever for the crimes of these CIA officials…… And this week, a federal judge, whose own order to produce these videos had been violated by the CIA, decided that he would not even impose civil sanctions or issue a finding of contempt because, as he put it, new rules issued by the CIA “should lead to greater accountability within the agency and prevent another episode like the videotapes’ destruction”.

NEPAL: “A lot of the juveniles who have been subjected to torture see gloomy prospects for their future” // Asian Human Rights Commission

IRCT member centre in Nepal – the Centre for Victims of Torture – sat down for an interview on the topic of children and torture. Please read the full interview as it truly provides an on-the-ground description of work on the rehabilitation and prevention of torture on children.

Torture in itself is a very wrong practice; it is a gross human rights violation. When children receive the torture, it is even worse.

CIO torture offices addresses to be exposed // The Zimbabwean.uk

SW Radio Africa and The Zimbabwean will publish throughout the week a series on the  Central Intelligence Organisation regional and rural offices throughout Zimbabwe, used to abduct and torture political opponents and dissidents. 

As our series will prove, hundreds of opposition activists have been and continue to be abducted by CIO agents and taken to these offices to be tortured. Our list will also show surprising deployments of state security agents in furniture shops and at the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre in Harare.

Party worker’s photo hints at torture // India Today

Even as the Jammu and Kashmir government has been claiming that the National Conference (NC) worker, Syed Mohammed Yusuf, died of natural causes,Headlines Today has accessed a picture which shows bruises on his face indicating towards his custodial death due to police torture.
The picture taken after Yusuf died shows bruise marks on his face. The deceased’s son Talib Hussain had claimed that his father died because of the torture.
“My father was interrogated inside the chief minister’s house. IG (crime) also told me the same. The picture of him shows torture marks,” Talib said.

Comitê de combate à tortura segue requisitos das Nações Unidas, diz ministra // Midiamax News, Brasil

O Comitê Nacional de Prevenção e Combate à Tortura está de acordo com os requisitos básicos da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU) para o funcionamento das organizações de direitos humanos, segundo a Secretaria de Direitos Humanos (SDH). Hoje (7), representantes de movimentos sociais criticaram o governo federal por alterar projeto que cria o sistema nacional de combate à tortura, com nova forma de composição do comitê. Para eles, a composição do comitê desrespeita o Protocolo Facultativo à Convenção da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU) contra a Tortura, tratado ratificado pelo Brasil em 2007.

Compiled by Tessa, communications assistant at the IRCT. If there are any articles you would like to send us that address the issue of human rights, detention abuse, or torture, please e-mail them to tem@irct.org.

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