Today people and organisations around the world come together to celebrate one of the most important days in the human rights calendar, the international Human Rights Day.
Commemorating the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this is an occasion to shine a light on pressing human rights issues.
To mark this year’s Human Rights Day, the IRCT has decided to highlight a key area within torture rehabilitation — psychosocial support in legal proceedings — by launching the report ‘In Pursuit of Justice’.
For many victims, seeing the perpetrator brought to justice and receiving compensation for the harm suffered is an essential step in their rehabilitation.
Sadly, for various reasons many of them never make it to the courtroom.
Fear of reprisals and re-traumatisation, no belief in the justice system and fear of stigmatisation from community or family members are some of the factors dissuading victims of torture from participating in legal proceedings against their perpetrators.
Yet, for those who do have their case heard, a trial is often an emotionally painful process during which victims re-visit traumatic memories. Many of them still suffer from the impact of torture even years after the event, needing constant support from health and legal professionals to prevent re-traumatisation.
By offering victims of torture specialised psychosocial support and access to justice programmes, centres can help them overcome the psychological burden of a trial while enhancing the therapeutic impact of justice on the individual’s rehabilitation.
Psychosocial support can also strengthen the overall quality and effectiveness of the legal process. A traumatised torture victim who testifies at trial without support runs a greater risk of providing a poorly prepared testimony that may impact negatively on their case by providing the court with unclear or contradictory information.
The consequences can be devastating. The victim may never see the perpetrator brought to justice and impunity is likely to encourage perpetrators to continue their violations.
With this in mind, it is hard to argue against the importance of psychosocial support in legal proceedings and it is easy to assume that this kind of support is offered to victims of torture.
Unfortunately, that is far from the case. Lack of psychosocial support in legal proceedings remains a problem – a problem that currently receives little attention.
With the launch of the report, the IRCT hopes to raise awareness about psychosocial support in legal proceedings and there is no better time to do this than on the international Human Rights Day.
We hope you will join us in voicing our support for the victims of torture and their pursuit of justice. Any torture victim deserves to find justice and psychosocial support in legal proceeding can help them achieve this.
The report is now available for download at www.irct.org.