Posts Tagged torture

Relieving the trauma of conflict in Sri Lanka

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In May 2009, Sri Lankan government forces seized the last Tamil Tiger controlled area of the country, signalling an end to 25 years of violent conflict. Despite this, bitterness still remains in the country today and while the civil war has been declared over, Sri Lanka still contains a vast number of war veterans and victims who seek rehabilitation from their trauma.

Adding to this is poverty – poverty not only caused by the conflict, but also due to the high frequency of natural disasters which seem to doom Sri Lanka, the latest incident being the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which claimed the lives of 40,000 people.

To relieve the mental stress of those who have been reduced to poverty because of the conflict and natural disasters, IRCT member Survivors Associated (SA) was established in 1996 alleviate the distress felt by thousands across the country.

Just one of the many group sessions held by the centre

Just one of the many group sessions held by the centre

Initially Survivors Associated sought to conduct psychosocial development activities at grass roots level in conflict areas. By attending to their economic, social and health needs, self-confidence could be instilled and a route for victims of war to attain their social aspirations could be highlighted.

The work of Survivors Associated now extends across the majority of the country and has broadened its focus once more, now aiming to cure the poverty – and the vulnerabilities to torture which poverty brings – caused by natural disasters.

In particular, Survivors Associated emphasises the importance of treating marginalised groups, such as female torture survivors, disabled war veterans, and children. Through community based holistic care, rehabilitation, education, economic empowerment and peace building, it is hoped victims of trauma in Sri Lanka can overcome their past.

The close ties Survivors Associated has built with the communities it works with has formed a solid foundation for building ethnic harmony in the country. Some recent positive developments include establishing creative therapy groups for women and children, group therapy programmes including a range of participants, and educational courses essential to many for living including cooking, woodwork, and weaving.

Through their work, Survivors Associated hopes Sri Lanka can continue to unite, move past their past and, ultimately, evolve as a nation.

To find out more about Survivors Associated, click this link.

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Using technology to protect human rights defenders

The amount of apps for mobile phones is incredible – the last batch of statistics in 2012 showed that over 700 apps were being released across all phone platforms every day.

AIPanicbuttonArguably, many are pointless. But what if one could actually save your life, or could offer you protection?

Amnesty International has sought to create such a useful app with its new Panic Button aimed at helping human rights activists facing torture, kidnap or attack.

The app – currently only available on Android devices – can be disguised as a calculator on a phone and is used to send an emergency text message to other activists so they realise one of their friends or colleagues is in danger.

Those who download the app can set-up a bank of three contacts who will receive the emergency message if the situation arises. To do this, the user only needs to repeatedly press the power button, or fake a repetitive sum by continually pressing the ‘1’ key.

There are some drawbacks to the app, notably its existence on Android devices only at this stage when much of world uses other operating systems. Another criticism is of course the usability of such an app – in a moment of genuine crisis, would a person actually have the time or inclination to send a distress signal on a phone app?

And, even if they did, there is the danger in many societies where human rights are impeded that the transmission can be intercepted.

However, it is a bold step and Amnesty must be praised for their innovation. And, ultimately, the more tools in the box to fight torture and assure the safety of human rights defenders, the better.

Click this link to read more about the app (redirects to an external site)

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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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