The IRCT welcomes the African Commission’s adoption of a General Comment on torture victims’ right to redress in Africa as a significant and exciting achievement for the protection of victims on the continent.
The General Comment gives region-specific guidance to African states on how they should ensure that victims of torture or ill-treatment can get effective remedies to correct the wrong they have suffered. In particular, it establishes how this should happen in situations of sexual or gender-based violence, armed conflict, torture perpetrated by non-state actors and in transitional justice processes.
The IRCT and its African members participated actively in the drafting of the General Comment, believing this will generate a regional momentum that can help torture victims across the continent get justice and the support they need to rebuild their lives. In this light, the IRCT provided input in relation to torture victims’ right to rehabilitation and standards for the investigation and documentation of allegations of torture. The IRCT is particularly pleased to see that in contrast to other guidance on redress and reparations, the General Comment highlights that remedies should be provided that address the needs of victimised communities as well as individual victims.
The General Comment also highlights that the victim should have ownership over, and be central to the rehabilitation process, just as it confirms that an assessment of a victim’s needs must be based on the Istanbul Protocol.
The IRCT believes the General Comment can help to reinforce and support the work done by IRCT members all over Africa to ensure that States take their obligations towards victims of torture or ill-treatment seriously, including by providing rehabilitation. This sentiment is echoed by one of the IRCT’s South African members:
“In South Africa, reparation has only been available to those who are able to access the court processes, and so it has been out of reach for the many survivors and victims of torture. We believe the General Comment will help us convince the South African government to take responsibility for providing remedies for the harm victims have suffered, for example by strengthening the anti-torture legislation to explicitly include reparation for victims of torture in South Africa,” says Annah Moyo, Advocacy Programme Manager, Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR).
The IRCT would like to congratulate its members on contributing to this significant achievement towards ensuring that victimised persons, families and communities across Africa will have better access to reparation.
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About the General Comment:
The African Commission adopted the General Comment on the Right to Redress for Victims of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment under Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights at its 21st Extraordinary Session, held from 23 February to 4 March 2017 in Banjul, The Gambia. The General Comment will be formally launched at the African Commission’s next ordinary session to be held 8-22 May 2017 in Niamey, Niger.