Latin America: Annual seminar allows for regional knowledge sharing over external training

By Dea Kopp Jensen, former Programme Coordinator for Latin America

Santiago Pedraglio, a sociologist, speaks during one of the presentations during the week-long seminar. Ruth Kristal Mitastein, from the hosting member centre Centre of Psychosocial Attention in Peru, looks on.

Centres in Latin America have been global pioneers in the rehabilitation of torture victims and the sharing of knowledge is particularly relevant to the member centres of the Red Salud, the Latin American Network of Institutions Providing Assistance to Persons Affected by Torture and Other Human Rights Violations.

IRCT’s Head of Programmes Peter Hellmers and I travelled to Lima, Peru in September for a regional seminar for knowledge-exchange among 14 centres from 13 Latin American countries.

Annual seminars in Latin America differ from other regions. Here, they have become both training seminars and serve also as annual meetings for the network including its own general assembly.

Throughout the week, the group of nearly 30 participants addressed several main topics related to the regional struggle against torture. These included the centres experiences with lobbying public prosecutors against perpetrators of torture, presentations on specific torture cases where the Istanbul Protocol – which provides internationally recognised standards on how to identify, document and report symptoms of physical and psychological torture – was used, and human rights in the socio-political context of Latin American countries.

Each centre made a presentation and shared their hands-on experiences with these issues, and several organisations coordinated together to focus on a particular topic. (See many of these at the CAPS, our member centre, website)

For example, the Foundation for Integral Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence (PRIVA) of Ecuador presented two cases where the member centre had used the Istanbul Protocol. The seminar’s host, the Centre of Psychosocial Attention (CAPS), presented a guide on assessment of psychosocial damage for victims of sexual violence, family violence, and torture.

These unique opportunities for knowledge sharing and exchange through the regional network and across the Global South comprise part of the IRCT’s project entitled Non-State Actors. The project targets health professional in 11 of our member centres to share knowledge, experience, and provide support and supervision between and beyond regions. The goal is to allow member centres to share their experiences and knowledge on providing holistic rehabilitation services without filtering. Thus, the knowledge is exchanged through peers rather than through top-down structures.

In my view, it is very important to note that these regional seminars within the NSA project have given this network the opportunity to select the themes for the seminar to a larger extent and prioritise knowledge sharing over of external training.

The Latin American Network of Institutions Providing Assistance to Persons Affected by Torture and Other Human Rights Violations (Red Salud) was established during a regional seminar in Montevideo, Uruguay, in August 1999 at the initiative of the four Latin American Council Members and the IRCT secretariat.

The group for the regional seminar: nearly 30 participants from 15 centres in 13 Latin American countries.

The group for the regional seminar: nearly 30 participants from 15 centres in 13 Latin American countries.

The network was the first of its kind in the region. In close collaboration with the IRCT secretariat, the network created a project plan for their activities, including annual training seminars. Today, the network consists of 16 rehabilitation centres and programmes, 12 of which are members of the IRCT. The network includes countries from Mexico in the north to Chile/Argentina in the south.

The network is independent from the IRCT and should be viewed as such. It has worked closely with the IRCT secretariat which, in my view, should be seen as a substantial and technical collaboration that the IRCT secretariat should, if possible, prioritise in the years to come.

Dea served as the IRCT’s programme coordinator for the Latin American region. She was at the organisation for more than 10 years, but sadly left at the end of September 2011. The regional seminar was supported by the European Commission.

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