Those who treat torture survivors: bringing together rehabilitation professionals

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a week-long series from Lars Døssing Rosenmeier, who is writing from the Middle East – North Africa (MENA) Regional Seminar in Amman, Jordan. The seminar is part of the European Commission-supported project, Non-State Actors, which you can read more about here.

Dr Fatima Hajji was one of 48 Bahraini doctors who were arrested and tortured during the Arab Spring uprising in spring of 2011. Now wanting to work to help other victims of torture, Dr Hajji is, together with the rest of the newly founded BRAVO organisation, working to establish a rehabilitation centre for torture victims in Bahrain.

Dr Haji, who has only recently had her travel ban lifted, joined more than a dozen other professionals this week at the Middle East – North Africa (MENA) Regional Seminar in Amman, Jordan. The seminar, hosted by IRCT together with project partner Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC), brings together 19 professionals from 9 centres in 7 MENA countries.

Dr Joost den Otter, IRCT’s Clinical Director and Head of Health Team, speaks during the seminar Sunday in Amman, Jordan. The seminar brings together 19 professions from 9 rehabilitation centres in 7 countries.

Most of the MENA centres are strongly involved in the prevention of torture. Thus, in addition to focusing on how rehabilitation centres receive torture survivors and collect and use data on their cases, the seminar will cover the role of the medical professional and the rehabilitation centres as human rights advocates. Moreover, the arrest and torture of at least 48 doctors in Bahrain in the early spring of 2011 has highlighted the need for better protection of medical professionals in many countries.

Wissam Sehweil of the Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture, Occupied Palestine, presents the centre’s procedures for receiving survivors of torture.

During Sunday afternoon, four of the participating centres presented their specific intake procedures and the data collected during this procedure. The presentations and in-depth discussions will continue today and throughout the week.

“The timing of the workshop is perfect for BRAVO, because we just started structuring torture rehabilitation,” Dr Haji said. “This workshop helps us in getting it right from the beginning — using the best available tools for assessment and monitoring torture victims’ needs and standardised formats for better communication with international rehabilitation bodies rather than doing it later, which would be more difficult to redo it.”

Lars assists the membership team, focusing on management of the NSA project. The NSA project is supported by the European Commission.


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  1. Health professionals as human rights advocates « World Without Torture

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