What is the purpose of legal assistance?
Torture victims are confronted to urgent situations that often require legal assistance.
- The victim can require help to deposit an asylum request in a third State, after having been able to leave his country.
- To denounce violence before the courts, a victim requires a lawyer’s assistance. In some countries, it is preferable that this person be a foreigner, in order to remove him from the pressure of local authorities, including judicial ones. In such cases, OMCT can delegate observers to the relevant courts, mandate lawyers to visit prisoners and, if necessary, ensure their defence.
- OMCT’s legal assistance helps to put pressure on authorities so that they prosecute guilty parties.
- OMCT can also demand that relevant judicial authorities provide reparation for committed crimes, and obtain the support from different national or international organisations.
Different types of legal assistance have been provided by OMCT since its creation:
- Interventions with the future host country of a victim and his family, in order to accelerate the decision-making process in the framework of a request for political asylum.
- Verification, by a NGO that is a member of the SOS-Torture Network, of the claims made by a person applying for asylum, in order to support his request. OMCT also evaluates the risks of torture faced by a person who might be sent back to his home country. OMCT’s legal assistance also includes transmitting information to the victim’s legal representatives or intervening directly with relevant authorities.
- Incurring the legal fees of the victim’s defence.
- Incurring fees related to the legal procedure of a political asylum petitioner, in the framework of a deportation, refoulement or family reunification.
- Regular interventions with representatives of the High Commissioner for Refugees (HCR), in order to quickly grant HCR refugee status to victims who remain in danger in their home country, thereby avoiding their return to a State in which they might be tortured.
- Regular meetings with victims and their families in order to analyse their situation and provide them with legal counsel, in the framework of a request for political asylum; putting them in contact with lawyers specialised in asylum procedures; interventions with national authorities to allow victims to stay in a place where they already benefit from local support.
- Preparation of a solid dossier for the request for political asylum: compilation of information on the victim, fact-finding, synthesis of OMCT actions, underlining of neglected elements.
- Incurring the costs of an independent medical certificate and the legal report required for the prosecution of the authors of torture.
- Regular interventions with the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture, in order to prevent the refoulement of the victim to his home country, when the date for deportation has been fixed and the victim might be tortured.
- Meetings with the victim before depositing a complaint against an agent of the State responsible for acts of torture; assistance in the drafting of the complaint; and monitoring of judicial proceedings.
- Legal assistance in the form of an “amicus curia”, deposited in the name of the victim to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; participation in the hearings of the Commission at the side of the victim.
- Various legal observation missions.