Posts Tagged torture

Rwandan Genocide: Our campaign marking 20 years since the genocide comes to an end


Over the past 100 days we have been marking one of the biggest, most damaging humanitarian atrocities in history – the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Through the testimonies of ten brave women, we helped fulfil their goal — that their stories not only reach other women who are victims of rape but also the perpetrators.

They hoped that the men who have caused them and others so much pain may, through reading the stories, come to understand what their past actions have caused in terms of suffering among the women they violated.

In the space of 100 days over one-million civilians were tortured, raped and murdered in one of the largest examples of ethnic cleansing the world has ever seen as Hutus repeatedly and mercilessly attacked the Tutsi population following the death of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, himself a Hutu.

Special thanks to artist Yildiz Arslan who has supported us throughout this campaign

Special thanks to artist Yildiz Arslan who has supported us throughout this campaign

Yet while the genocide had far-reaching effects, some survivors did pull through, thanks in part to group therapy programmes established following the genocide.

For the latest edition of IRCT’s Torture Journal, the team worked with editors Annemiek Richters and Grace Kagoyire to collate ten stories from female survivors of the genocide, all of which are available in pdf and here on World Without Torture.

During the process of collecting the stories, and using their own words, the editors developed a deep connection with the authors of the stories. “We admire their courage to overcome their silence and share with us, and through us with many others, their deepest suffering and the steps they have taken on the road towards healing. Our hope is that they will continue to support each other and together face the continuing and new challenges in their lives.”

The stories, while painful to read at times, reflect not only on the horrors of the genocide but also the strength and hope of the survivors. And while many survivors of the genocide still require rehabilitation and assistance today, the testimonies are a powerful testament to the benefits of therapy.

To read all the survivor stories, click this link.

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26 June: Highlights from the international day against torture


This year’s 26 June campaign was the biggest yet. Armed with impactful artwork, campaign guides, factsheets, posters and more, over 70 organisations around the world joined the IRCT and World Without Torture in organising events to mark the day.

Peaceful demonstrations, press conferences, concerts, radio shows, panel discussions and many other events took place, reaching thousands of people with a message of support to survivors and a clear call to end impunity.

But it did not stop there – the 26 June campaign was also huge on social media with over 100,000 seeing the #26June and #NoMoreImpunity hashtags through the day.

These efforts will be collated and presented in the upcoming 26 June Global Report, distributed to thousands of human rights individuals and organisations.

But for now, see the gallery below for some of the highlights on the day.


Do you have more pictures of your activities on 26 June? Send them to us at



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Ex-Chicago police commander allowed to keep pension, despite his links to torture

In October 2013 we wrote a piece commenting on the decision of the Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel apologising on behalf of now-infamous Jon Burge, an ex-police commander and celebrated war veteran sentenced to four-years in prison for a campaign of racism and torture in 1970s’ and 1980s’ Chicago.

Former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge leaves the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago on Tuesday morning, June 29, 2010. (Jos? M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

Former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge leaves the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago on Tuesday morning, June 29, 2010. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

Mr Burge was sentenced in 2011 to four-years in prison for lying under questioning when the allegations of torture were brought against him, allegations which he faced no charges for following his dismissal from the police in 1993.

Yet as more and more evidence came to light, it appeared Burge had indeed spearheaded a campaign of torture which affected over 200 people. Most of these survivors have since been awarded compensation but Burge was not charged for these crimes – he was charged for lying about them, not committing them.

But today it is not only the victims who are receiving money – Jon Burge is too.

Despite earning his publicly-funded pension entitlement during his notorious near two decade rule as police commander, Jon Burge, a convicted felon, will be able to receive his $3,000-a-month pension.

At a recent police pension board meeting, a tied vote of 4-4 assured that Mr Burge will be able to claim his pension upon release. As the Chicago Sun-Times notes:

Half of the board members actually argued that his 2010 conviction for lying about torturing suspects was not connected to his police job because the crime for which he was convicted — lying — came after he was no longer a cop. We’re sure that’s not how it looked to the men who were beaten, put through mock executions and shocked on their genitals by Burge and his midnight crew in the 1970s and 1980s.

This decision adds another example of impunity for the crimes of torture in the US and sends a negative message to the victims and to the human rights groups who have condemned the news. Many of the victims have yet to receive full reparations or rehabilitation and this move shows that full condemnation of a torturer is still a long way off.

And for the US – who could be a powerful anti-torture advocate – rulings such as this are incredibly worrying.

Further reading:

For more information on the Jon Burge case – including the decision by the Chicago Mayor to apologise on his behalf – click this link for our previous blog summarising the story.

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Rwanda 20yrs on: Sociotherapy cured my solitude


In the eighth story marking the 100 day period of the Rwandan Genocide, Mutegwamaso Foyibi recounts her feelings of loneliness and desperation following the death of much of her family in the genocide, and how sociotherapy has helped her overcome her solitude.

You can read an extract of Mutegwamaso’s story “Sociotherapy took me out of solitude” below.  To read her full story, click this link. And to read the stories of the other brave women featured in our campaign, click this link.

Mutegwamaso’s story

I am fifty-eight years old. I have been a widow since 1995. Because of the ethnic conflicts that reigned in Rwanda over a period of many years, I grew up and lived in different neighbouring countries. I returned to Rwanda in 1992, at the age of thirty-eight. I was born into a family of six children, four of whom died during the genocide. Only one sister and I are still alive.

foto 1cI married my husband in 1968 when I was fourteen years old. We had seven children together. Four are alive, the three others died during the genocide.

In the 1963 war, when I was nine years  old, our family fled to Burundi. This war followed previous wars that took place in 1959 and in 1962. We fled this time because our house was destroyed and most of the members of my extended family were murdered. In 1974, my parents and some siblings went back to Rwanda because the country was peaceful. My husband did not want us to go back and so we left for Uganda, where we lived for years before deciding to move back to Rwanda in 1992 – just before the genocide devastated our lives. To continue reading Mutegwamaso’s full story, click this link (opens as PDF)

To view the full list of stories, which will be updated every two weeks from April until July, please click this link.

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Creating a world without torture: June in review

June was an incredibly busy month with some fantastic and powerful events, publications and calls for action from across the globe – culminating on 26 June in the worldwide marking of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Below we round up our blogs from June and don’t forget to keep checking the blog in the coming weeks for more. Click here to visit our Facebook page, and here to visit our Twitter feed.

Thousands mark 26 June with powerful campaigns around the world

The biggest date of the anti-torture calendar came around once more on 26 June and here at the IRCT we marked the day with a united message – no more impunity.

Thanks to a coordinated effort in the months leading up to the date, the IRCT members across the globe were able to hold their own branded events calling for an end to torture and impunity.

Also the day was marked on social media with live updated pictures from organisations marking the day and a continual stream of comments, opinions and messages of support linked to the #26June and #NoMoreImpunity hashtags.

The day was incredibly successful with not only hundreds of anti-torture organisations taking part, but with also over 100,000 mentions of the day on social media. For a summary of the day click this link – and stay tuned for an upcoming gallery of actions around the globe.

The team behind ‘The Act of Killing’ distribute the award-winning film for free on 26 June

A shot from critically-acclaimed The Act of Killing

To mark 26 June we teamed up with the team behind the incredibly successful, award-winning documentary ‘The Act of Killing’ who arranged for free public screenings of the film on the day.

Fifteen IRCT members took part in the screenings, but you can still become involved now if you are continuing your 26 June activities a little after the date.

For more information on this unique partnership click this link.


Twenty-years after the Rwandan Genocide, survivors tell their stories

Illustration courtesy of Danish artist Yildiz Arslan

Illustration courtesy of Danish artist Yildiz Arslan

Our most popular blog series is the Rwanda: 20 years on campaign which uses the voices of survivors of torture to capture the horrors of the genocide and the successes of the subsequent rehabilitation programmes which have helped them resume a life free from ill-treatment.

This month saw the publication of two stories, from Germaine and Ntakwasa, who both recount the rape, murder and torture they encountered and how one women’s survivor group helped them to overcome their past.

The campaign, which will run throughout the 100 day period of the genocide until mid-July, sees a new survivor of torture telling their story every two weeks.

To read all the stories from the campaign, click this link. And keep checking the blog, our Facebook, and Twitter for future updates to the campaign.

Syrian snapshots: a life in ruins

The sunset in Ma’arra.

We caught up with Ida, a photographer and frequent visitor to Syria, who recounted another trip to the ruined city of Ma’arrat al-Numan where she heard stories of torture, ill-treatment and death.

In her second blog for World Without Torture, Ida uses pictures to illustrate not only the destruction in Syria but also the sadness brought to the region by the frequent arrests and torture of Syrian citizens.

To read the blog in full just click this link.


Torture for ‘development’ in India

THE small dugout canoe that would take us to the centre of Loktak Lake in the mountainous Manipur State

The small dugout canoe that takes Marion to the centre of Loktak Lake in the mountainous Manipur State

The IRCT’s Senior Advisor for Asia, Marion Staunton, reported from her latest visit to Indian IRCT member CORE-H2H who are continuing to offer support to indigenous people in the north-east of India, people who are facing torture and homelessness as big-businesses plan to develop their rural communities into major road networks.

Those who refuse to move, or have publicly objected to the development, have become victims of torture and frequent arson attacks to the community only further increase the levels of trauma and sadness among the community.

Click this link to read the full blog.

Rape used as a routine weapon of torture in the Democratic Republic of Congo

A woman who was raped by a government soldier recovers at the Heal Africa hospital in Goma. Picture courtesy of Freedom from Torture.

A woman who was raped by a government soldier recovers at the Heal Africa hospital in Goma. Picture courtesy of Freedom from Torture.

June also saw IRCT member Freedom from Torture launching a harrowing report into the commonplace usage of rape as a form of torture in the DRC, despite pledges from the country that it is doing all it can to stop rape.

The report came as international decision-makers met in London for a global summit on preventing sexual violence. Spearheaded by actress Angelina Jolie and UK politician William Hague, the campaign aims to end sexual violence in conflict zones.

However, as the Freedom from Torture report indicates, it is not just in conflict zones where sexual violence takes place and the anti-torture organisation called on the UK government to do more to stop sexual violence in every context.

To read the news story on the report click this link (redirects to the website) and, to read the full report, click this link.

For further information from World Without Torture, do not forget to ‘like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Click here to visit our Facebook page, and here to visit our Twitter feed.

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26 June is here: Join us in fighting impunity


The 26 June UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is here. Organisations and human rights defenders across the globe are standing united right now to end impunity, the theme of this year’s 26 June campaign – and you can join them with your voice today.

Social media:

Throughout the day World Without Torture’s Facebook and Twitter pages will be updated with the latest information on what groups across the globe are doing to mark this important day. Don’t forget to use the hashtags #26June and #NoMoreImpunity wherever you can.

Global map of events:

You can see on our global map to find out exactly what IRCT centres are holding today – and in the coming weeks – to help create a world without torture.

IRCT Global Reading for 26 June:Poster5-150

Every day crimes of torture are committed across the globe and, in many of these cases, justice is never served – the perpetrators are still free and the victims are denied any access to rehabilitation.

But there is hope and organisations across the world are attempting to create a world without torture. You can read and share the full global reading here (also in French and Spanish) to get an idea of how the work we do is having a positive impact on the world, even if at times the fight against torture seems lengthy.

26 June campaign kit:

If you want to use any of our campaign materials still then please do so by clicking this link.

Here you will find all the posters, factsheets and statements relating to the 26 June.

What is happening right now?

Already organisations around the world have begun hosting their events: ASeTTS in Australia have hosted their panel meeting on how to fight impunity; Fora Penal in Venezuela are holding a forum on impunity; BCHRD in Bangladesh are standing united to promote the rights of torture victims; and APT have created an excellent video explaining what impunity is. These are just some of the hundreds of organisations who will mark the fight against impunity and torture today.

Those who tortured you to speak now want you silent.
Join us in the fight against impunity #NoMoreImpunity.


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‘The Act of Killing’ to feature in IRCT’s 26 June campaign

This year the 26 June Global Campaign has teamed up with the team behind Oscar-nominated documentary ‘The Act of Killing’ to distribute free film screenings to mark the day of fighting impunity.

A shot from critically-acclaimed The Act of Killing

A shot from critically-acclaimed The Act of Killing

The film, from Joshua Oppenheimer, portrays a society shaped by extreme violence, where past atrocities are yet to be reconciled and painful memories are yet to be incorporated into public discourse. By reflecting on the condition of impunity, the film raises critical questions related to this year’s campaign theme: fighting impunity.

To mark the day the film team are allowing those hosting 26 June campaigns across the world to host the film for free, for a limited period of time.

So far 15 centres have received permission from the filmmakers to host a screening with four screenings planned in the next few weeks by BCHRD  in Bangladesh,  RCTV Memoria in Moldova, HRO in Sri Lanka, Ethel AMSA in the Phillipinnes, and CVT in Kenya.

Now you can join too.

How to host a screening

To host a screening all you need to do is write our friend Elinor from ( and let her know you wish to screen the film as part of your 26 June campaign. She will send you an agreement for a one-time screening and you will receive the film in a suitable format, depending on your needs.

Also if you wish to invite the director for a post-screening discussion via Skype, you can do that too. Just let Elinor know and she will check on availability.

It is an exciting development for this year’s campaign, which promises to be the biggest yet.

For all the relevant material for the campaign this year, click this link.

Those who tortured you to speak now want you silent.
Join us in fighting impunity on 26 June.


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One Rwandan Genocide survivor tells how rehabilitation helped her overcome her torture


In our latest survivor story marking the 100 day period of the Rwandan Genocide – which took place 20 years ago – Germaine Muhorakeye recalls the murder and violence she witnessed, how it forced her to cope through drug addiction, and how she ultimately overcame her demons. 

You can read an extract of Germaine’s story “I can now take care of myself and no longer use drugs” below.  To read her full story, click this link. And to read the stories of the other brave women featured in our campaign, click this link.

Germaine’s story

My name is Germaine Muhorakeye. I was born in 1971, in the Western Province. I now live in Bugesera District, where I moved shortly after the genocide. My mother was a housewife and my father an agriculturalist.foto 1rwanda

My father died when I was still young, but his pension allowance continued to help my mother to raise us. We were seven children in my family; three sisters and four brothers. We lived among cows and coffee and banana plantations. Our grandfather also supported our mother. My good memories from before the genocide, when I was still young, are of family meetings and sharing New Year parties at our house. We used to share good meals, cook, and prepare the drinks for New Year parties together.

These were my happiest moments, which I will never have back.

I got married in 1992, but my husband was killed during the genocide, after only two years of marriage.  Among my siblings who were in Rwanda during the genocide, I am the only one who survived. Almost all of my family members were killed during the genocide, and I myself was abused.

To read Germaine’s full story, click this link (opens as PDF)

To view the full list of stories, which will be updated every two weeks from April until July, please click this link.



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Indigenous peoples under threat in India: torture for ‘development’

We hear from IRCT Asia Regional Coordinator Marion Staunton as she visits CORE-H2H in Manipur, India, to learn about the centre’s activities to tackle torture in the region.

On a clear day under cobalt blue skies, along the shores of a murky canal choking with vegetation, we climbed in to small dugout canoe that would take us on a twenty minute journey to the centre of Loktak Lake in the mountainous Manipur State of the north-eastern region of India.

THE small dugout canoe that would take us to the centre of Loktak Lake in the mountainous Manipur State

The small dugout canoe that took us to the centre of Loktak Lake in Manipur State


The lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in the region and has an important role in its ecological and economic security. The purpose of our journey was to meet some members of fisher community living on floating huts who are being supported by the Human to Humane Transcultural Centre for Torture and Trauma (H2H) project of the IRCT member the Centre for Organization Research & Education (CORE).

H2H, established in 2009, is the independent health and humanitarian service of the nongovernmental organization CORE which provides direct assistance to survivors of torture within a holistic rehabilitation framework. Support is provided through in-house clinical psychologists, art and expressive therapists, physiotherapists, spiritual and traditional healers. H2H activities are supported by the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.

CORE was founded in 1987 in the capital Imphal of Manipur State in response to the extensive human rights abuses taking place. Its main focus is on the documentation of such human rights abuses, including torture, and advocacy for indigenous peoples’ rights. Since 2005, CORE has Special Consultative Relationship with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

In the canoe accompanying me on my journey was one of the founding members of CORE and its current president Dr Laifungbam Roy. Dr Roy, who heads the H2H project, explained how in Manipur people in appearance and culture have more in common with South East Asia than distant New Delhi. Many insurgencies have been fought in this region for autonomy and separation from India, and the Indian government has responded with tough military crackdowns that have resulted in heavy loss to life, property and the development of the state.

In particular, he explained about the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA), a racially discriminatory “state of emergency” martial law that is in place in Manipur that gives soldiers extraordinary powers and legal immunity from prosecution under India’s criminal justice system. Soldiers are shielded from prosecution by this law as they cannot be prosecuted without explicit permission from the central government, which has never been granted. Unsurprisingly, the law has led to decades of impunity, human rights violations and abuses, such as arbitrary killings, rape, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and enforced disappearances. One particular client group that CORE works with and supports is that of indigenous peoples, the majority population of the province.

Phumsangs, THE traditional floating huts made of bamboo and thatch situated in the middle of lake

Phumsangs: traditional floating huts made of bamboo and thatch situated in the middle of lake


When we reached our destination we met with the Loktak Fishing Community and the All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen’s Union Manipur Secretary on their indigenous phumsangs which are traditional floating huts made of bamboo and thatch situated in the middle of lake. Currently the traditional life style and livelihood of the Loktak Fishing Community is severely threatened due to ‘development’ plans to construct a ring-road and embankment around the lake with the authorities using the old and authoritarian Loktak Lake (Protection) Act of 2006 that criminalises traditional fishing and seeks remove the fishing community from the lake.

Their lives, livelihoods and way of life are in danger and in recent times they have endured arson attack, torture and evictions from their homes by the government with nowhere else for them to go. The community are extremely traumatised and distraught following recent arson attacks on them and their homes. According to H2H and CORE they are under continuous stress not knowing when the authorities will return and attempt to evict them and destroy their homes again.

In recent months H2H has provided counselling support to a number of torture victims from this community. But the community say that their uncertainty of what will happen to them, their children and community causes them continued mental anguish and torture.


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Improving torture documentation in Germany

As the number of conflicts around the world rises, so do the numbers of people seeking asylum. One particular region aimed for by many asylum seekers is Europe, with Germany accepting the most asylum seekers in 2013.

Yet simply accepting asylum seekers and refugees is not enough – their health condition must be documented, as well as any traumatic experiences, so these refugees are not abandoned in their new home. In this context the right skills to document torture become paramount, and two IRCT members in Germany are offering training courses to improve the documentation of torture in Germany.

logogermanyAccording to a survey of the United Nations, Germany was, with 109,600 new asylum applications in 2013, “the largest single recipient of new asylum claims among the group of industrialized countries”.

In 2013, the Federal Bureau for Migration and Refugees presided over 80,978 asylum cases. Only 1.1 % of the applicants were granted full asylum; 12.3 % received refugee status; and 11.4 % received other residence permits. A total of 38.5 % were denied asylum and for another 36.7 % “formal decisions” were made.

Figures show that the majority of these asylum seekers come from regions where there is ongoing war, crisis, or political, religious or ethnical persecution. Such countries include Syria, the Russian Federation (mainly Chechnya), Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Eritrea. Also many Roma from Serbia and others from Bosnia and Herzegovina seek asylum.

Between thirty and forty percent of these refugees and asylum seekers in Germany are severely traumatized. Many have, either in their home countries or on their journey to Europe, suffered torture and other severe human rights violations. Survivors of torture often show serious psychological and psychosomatic symptoms and also sometimes physical consequences of torture, and are therefore in urgent need of help.

However, according to a report of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), 72% of the centres for the treatment and rehabilitation of traumatized refugees and torture victims, questioned in Europe and beyond, state that there is no special “procedure in place to identify victims of torture within the national asylum procedure”.

Helping maintain standards

Recognised standards for the examination and documentation of alleged torture cases – such as the Istanbul Protocol and an analogue model and curriculum for Germany “Standards for the examination of psychologically traumatized persons (available in German only)”  – have existed since 2001. Since then trainings under both standards have been realised in Germany by the Chamber of Doctors and Psychologists, together with IRCT members Center for Treatment of Torture Victims (bzfo) in Berlin and the Medical Care Service for Refugees Bochum (MFH).

Also in Germany, in Hamburg, protestors call for greater rights for refugees (courtesy of Refugee Welcome Centre, used under creative commons licence)

Also in Germany, in Hamburg, protestors call for greater rights for refugees (courtesy of Refugee Welcome Centre, used under creative commons licence)

There is a lack of trained experts on the forensic documentation of torture and when, though rarely, courts call for expert opinions on asylum processes, any health professional can be called. However, not every health professional specialises in the effects of torture, thereby rendering a great number of reports and medical certificates insufficient in these matters.

It is crucial for the therapeutic success as well as for the asylum procedure to identify victims of torture and other severe human rights violations at an early stage. Otherwise, time will already have passed before torture survivors go through any examinations, leading to the consequence that their trauma may become chronic.

Psychological consequences of torture

Not every torture survivor shows psychological or physical disorders, nevertheless the absence of physical or psychological consequences of torture does in no way proof that torture has not taken place. Those victims which have undergone a psychiatric-psychological examination though predominantly show severe symptoms, the most common being post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Besides an adequate therapeutic treatment, it is further necessary that the refugees concerned benefit from the full range of possibilities offered by rehabilitation and the acknowledgement, socially as well as legally, of the injustice that has been done to them. The denial of acknowledgment and justice can have severe negative effects on the therapeutic process of victims of torture. To tackle this, in 2011 the Medical Care Service for Refugees Bochum (MFH) has established a work area called “Justice heals” which deals with the predominant problem of impunity of perpetrators all over the world.

In order to close the gap between needed knowledge and lack of training possibilities in Germany concerning the preparation of medico-legal reports, the Professorship for Medical Ethics of the Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) and the Center for Treatment of Torture Victims (bzfo) in Berlin – together with the Medical Care Service for Refugees Bochum (MFH) – are offering interdisciplinary seminars on the examination and documentation of torture.

These seminars are addressed in particular to physicians of all fields as well as psychologists, jurists and other professionals which potentially having to deal with survivors of torture. The seminars provide insight into the main features of legal, psychological and somatic aspects of the documentation of torture, complemented by workshops for the respective topics. The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) has taken over patronage for the seminars.

Seminar Locations

Berlin: 28. – 29. June 2014
Haus der Demokratie und Menschenrechte
Greifswalder Straße 4

Düsseldorf: 5. – 6. July 2014
Ärztekammer Nordrhein | Tersteegenstraße 9

Munich: 26. – 27. July 2014
EineWeltHaus | Schwanthalerstr. 80

For further information please visit:

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