Torture is a crime of darkness, hidden from the public eye. This is why nobody knows how many people are victims of torture worldwide. What we know from testimonies is that these numbers are very large.
In Mexico, arrest by the Army carries an 86% risk of torture. In many countries, torture is the routine dirty secret of police stations and prisons. One in ten Russian citizens reported torture at the hands of police. During armed conflict, it proliferates like cancer. Syria is one example: reports speak of up to 14,000 people tortured to death by the government since 2011.
Those who survived have urgent and specific needs. Medical care, including psychological attention, comes first to mind. They also often need social support, including for the basic needs of the family, as it might be the breadwinner who is the victim. When the victim’s life remains at risk, relocation to a safe heaven is the only solution - whether inside or outside the country. Help must be swift and adapted to each specific situation. But most of the time, victims are poor, marginalized and voiceless. They don’t know about centres providing specialized care, or don’t have the financial resources to access them. Their chances to get legal redress for the crime committed against them are even slimmer.
A unique urgent assistance programme
Today, the OMCT is the only international non-governmental organisation that provides first assistance directly to the women, men and children who have survived torture. This is done via its Fund for Urgent Assistance for Victims of Torture. Victims can contact the OMCT directly or be referred by local organisations – often members and partners of our SOS-Torture Network – who don’t have themselves the resources to respond. Each case is assessed, verified and monitored in collaboration with local partners.
The Fund, intervenes only in emergency situations. It doesn’t have a center specialising in medical care for torture victims, neither can it finance long term medical treatment. What it does is to provide victims with the amounts needed to provide the first treatments, via local organisations that belong to the OMCT SOS-Torture Network. The speedy nature of this assistance makes it a crucial instrument for people who are in desperate need of help.
The Fund adopts a holistic approach that goes beyond healing the physical and psychological scars of torture and combines medical, social and legal assistance. To overcome the suffering, the victim must be able to obtain complete rehabilitation, compensation, social reintegration, and punishment of the guilty by a court of law. It is sometimes necessary to support the person in obtaining asylum in a third country.
In Tunisia, OMCT’s two SANAD centres provide legal, psychological, social and medical assistance to hundreds of victims of torture and their families. The staff tailor a specific programme for the needs of each victim, and work with dedicated lawyers, psychologists, medical doctors, and social workers from the public administration and specialized civil society organisations.