Posts Tagged International Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims

One year on: Egyptian government shuts down country’s only rehabilitation centre for victims of torture

A year ago, we shared a story about how Egypt’s last remaining centre for the treatment and documentation of alleged torture victims was ordered to close by the Egyptian authorities. The reason given at the time was that the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture had ‘breached unspecified health ministry regulations’. Critics on the other hand labelled the order a crackdown on human rights organisations and defenders in the country.

Now El Nadeem has been closed after it allegedly violated terms of its licence. A few weeks ago, El Nadeem staff arrived at the centre to find that it had been sealed by police. According to the co-founder of the centre, Aida Seif el-Dawla, the building’s doorman was taken into police custody, but was later released.

Last year, when the centre was ordered to close, Aida Seif el-Dawla called the decision politically motivated. She said at the time that: “This is a political decision and it’s coming from the cabinet that represents all the actors that are keen on the survival of this regime, despite the oppression and the torture that the Egyptian people are living through on a daily basis.”

(Courtesy of Alisdare Hickson used via Flickr creative commons license)

(Courtesy of Alisdare Hickson used via Flickr creative commons license)

Not much has changed since then. Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took office in June 2014, repression and shrinking of the public space has only increased, targeting the entire spectrum of human rights organisations, professional and labour associations, political activists, journalists and media.

In its 2017 World Report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that authorities continued to effectively ban protests and that police had arrested scores of people in connection with protests, many preemptively. What is more, HRW noted that authorities had also ordered travel bans and asset freezes against prominent human rights organisations.

Despite the constitution forbidding torture and the abuse of detainees, the practice is widespread in Egyptian prisons. Reports of torture and ill-treatment and enforced disappearances in Egypt are frequent, with El Nadeem consistently recording high numbers of allegations of police torture. In late 2015 the centre and other civil society organisations announced they were able to document 625 torture cases in Egyptian prisons.


Aida Seif el-Dawla

In the wake of El Nadeem’s closure, international rights organisations, including the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), of which El Nadeem is a member, have come out in support of the centre.

“El Nadeem provides crucial psychological support to torture victims and is a credible public voice when the Egyptian authorities try to silence the victims. We know from our members around the world that torture inflicts terrible damage to individuals, families and societies. El Nadeem performs a crucial societal function in promoting human rights and democracy and it is high time that all of us who believe in human rights and democracy take a close look at Egypt,” said Victor Madrigal-Borloz who is the Secretary-General of the IRCT.

Whether the government will eventually provide an explanation as to why it closed the centre remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: as long as the El Nadeem remains closed, torture victims in dire need of help are not able to receive the treatment they need.

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Poll shows wide Danish support for torture

‘Do you support torture if it can gather information that can protect the public?’ While the majority of people across the globe answer a resounding ‘no’, 37 per-cent of Danish men disagree and gave a resounding ‘yes’.

According to a recent Yougov poll, published in the Metroexpress, 17 per-cent of women in Denmark also supported torture. Overall the support for torture in the poll is identical to the support of torture shown in Russia and South Korea.

People wandering the streets in Copenhagen, Denmark (picture used under creative commons licence courtesy of  adrimcm)

People wandering the streets in Copenhagen, Denmark (picture used under creative commons licence courtesy of adrimcm)

It is a shocking revelation, particularly in a country with a long and pioneering history supporting the global fight against torture – a history reflected in the fact that Denmark houses the headquarters of the International Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (IRCT), a global network of more than 140 torture rehabilitation centres around the world, including three in Denmark: Dignity, OASIS and RCT Jylland.

Clearly there are deep-seated misconceptions about torture, the effectiveness of it and the effects it has on victims. Also, the time-ticking bomb scenario is still tricking the public to favour torture.

First of all the principle of using torture to gather information is wrong. We live in societies based on democratic, human principles of respect, dignity and integrity. Ensuring these principles is fundamental for a progressive, secure world.

But secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the rationale for justifying torture is also wrong – simply put, the question is flawed in the first instance because it wrongly assumes that information collected from torture can protect the public. This is largely a myth. Evidence has shown that the information torture produces is, at best, unreliable.

Therefore, the use of information obtained through torture is often not admissible in legal proceedings. In fact, any use of evidence gained through torture breaks the UN Convention Against Torture, ratified by a majority of countries.

Everyone has the duty to hold states to account for their torture, not to support them in their torture. Torture is a crime with far-reaching consequences and it should be in the minds of everyone to stop this inhumane crime. This includes the Danish people.

Regardless of the differences between the genders, regardless of the apparent justifications, torture is a crime and a severe abuse of human rights. Next time you are asked a similar question, consider your answer.


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