Thursday, 23 June 2011

International Day in Support of Torture Victims

On 26 June the ‘International Day in Support of Torture Victims’ is observed worldwide as a remembrance of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Behaviour which came into force on 26 of June, 1987. The Convention against Torture was established, as an international human rights instrument under the scope of the United Nations, in prevention of torture.

Torture continues to take place in 100 countries worldwide. Thousands of people are tortured, everyday somewhere in the world, while many more are affected indirectly. According to International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) 35% of asylum seekers and refugees worldwide are affected, proving that this is not a trivial problem of a minor group. Torture destroys children, women, men and entire families. It prevents societies from reaching high standards of human, social and economic progress; an unquestionable right for every human being.

More specifically, the consequences for the victims of torture are devastating and reach far beyond the initial pain. The majority of victims suffer from flashbacks, memory loss, severe anxiety and insomnia, all of which are symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Additional to that, the humiliation endured by the victims, during this abnormal and ruthless treatment, often results in feelings of guilt, shame and betrayal towards their loved ones. Moreover, not only individuals suffer, but also local societies are heavily affected in the terrifying realization that basic human rights are not guaranteed nor protected.

In Cyprus, the Unit for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture (URVT) operates under the umbrella of the Humanitarian Affairs Unit of the Cypriot Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Future Worlds Center (FWC). URVT is the only treatment center of its kind in Cyprus. It was established in 2006 and it’s currently funded by the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (UNVFVT). It provides multidisciplinary treatment and rehabilitation services in the form of social counseling, psychological support and legal advice for the survivors of torture and their families. URVT is also focused in increasing public awareness about torture and making aware that victims of torture are not a far away issue; instead they live among us in Cyprus, trying to heal their wounds.

As former Secretary-General of the UN Kofi Anan noted: ‘This is a day on which we pay our respects to those who have endured the unimaginable. This is an occasion for the world to speak up against the unspeakable. It is long overdue that a day be dedicated to remembering and supporting the many victims and survivors of torture around the world.’ This is a day, in which we call all the individuals, to join us and thousands of people around the world in speaking against and condemn this global crime against humanity, working toward a world without any kind of torture.

‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ Article 5, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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