UN International Day in support of victims of torture
26 June 2013
Right to Rehabilitation
The United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is Wednesday 26 June.
For most New Zealanders this day may not hold much significance however it is worth noting that there are hundreds of citizens who were torture victims in their home countries before escaping and fleeing to another country to seek protection through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Such refugees live amongst us as survivors and on arrival in New Zealand they are offered rehabilitation through specialist organisations.
One such organisation is Refugee Trauma Recovery which is a Wellington based rehabilitation treatment centre for torture victims. Refugee Trauma recovery is a member of a world wide organisation (International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims - IRCT). There are 150 treatment centres from all continents that belong to this organisation. The Refugee Trauma Recovery General Manager, Jeff Thomas is currently sitting on the world Council of IRCT representing NZ, Australia and the South Pacific.
Right to Rehabilitation is the theme for the 26 June 2013 campaign. At the end of 2012, the UN Committee against Torture published a General Comment on Article 14 of the Convention against Torture, which states:
Each State Party shall ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible.
The General Comment clarified points of Article 14, namely that rehabilitation should be holistic, that States have a financial obligation regardless of resources available, that it must be accessible at the soonest possible point after torture, and that torture victims have a right to choose their provider, be it nongovernmental organisations or the State providing services.
However, while international law grants all torture victims a right to rehabilitation, this is unfortunately not always a reality. As such, we wanted to use 26 June, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, to reiterate that victims of torture have this right – a Right to Rehabilitation – and that supporting victims of torture can mean providing as full rehabilitation as possible, through a holistic approach that includes medical, psychological, and social needs, and access to justice and redress.
Jeff Thomas is proud of the service his organisation offers torture victims who have come to NZ as refugees and we proudly stand united alongside the other 140 organisations to stand remind the world that torture is a cruel violation of human rights.