11 Nov 2019
Providing lifesaving rehabilitation services for torture survivors in conflict-ridden province in DRC

Since 2005, IRCT member centre Friends of Victims of Human Rights Violations/Amis de Victimes des violations des droits humains (AVVDH) has worked tirelessly to support thousands of Congolese torture survivors in rebuilding their lives, by delivering crucial rehabilitation services and care under difficult circumstances. Two years ago, AVVDH embarked on a journey to strengthen existing data collection and use data from their clients to improve the conditions for torture survivors. 

Providing lifesaving rehabilitation services for torture survivors in conflict-ridden province in DRC

Oxfam (https://www.flickr.com/photos/oxfameastafrica/12187911903/in/photostream/)

Torture is widely used in the DRC to suppress dissent; men and women are routinely being detained and tortured due to their political and human rights activism. “Besides the repression, the prolonged conflict situations since 1996 in eastern DRC have led to severe human rights violations committed against the civilian population“ said Alexis Mashimango Bora-Uzima, the Director General at AVVDH. 

Due to the suffering, pain and trauma caused by torture, many people in the DRC are in urgent need of comprehensive rehabilitation. Women and girls are especially vulnerable facing high levels of abuse, violence and torture. In fact, data collected by AVVDH shows that over 60% of their clients are female. Sexual torture leads to devastating psychological and physical consequences. The effects of sexual torture are exacerbated by widespread social stigma, which can result in rejection or abandonment by a victim’s family and partner.  The access to holistic rehabilitation in the form of health-and therapeutic care, legal aid and livelihood opportunities is essential for them to rebuild their lives.

“Some women are in need of urgent medical attention, psychological counselling and psychosocial support, others need help to generate income and others need support to take legal action. However, many of our client’s do not take legal action out of fear of reprisals from executioners. They also do not have the financial possibilities to engage an action in court, although a lawyer is available to them. Our clients do not trust the Congolese justice system many have declared that the latter is corrupted” said Dr Yves Bahati Bagale, Medical Director at AVVDH. “We help them through all of this.”

The cumulative effects of decades of violence have left an enduring mark on a beleaguered population. National accountability mechanisms are weak, enabling a climate of impunity for perpetrators where there is little or no chance of redress or justice for many torture victims. Systematic documentation of torture and its devastating impact is therefore vital to illustrate the prevalence of torture, its trends and patterns and the subsequent rehabilitative needs of victims. “There is a tremendous need for collecting data from torture survivors and its consequences. Through the Anti-Torture Database from the IRCT, we collect medical, socio-demographic, psychological, legal and torture exposure data that help us document violations and demonstrates that torture is systemic and a widespread practice in the DRC. This empowers us and our clients to compel the government to take action” said Mr. Bora-Uzima.

AVVDH will continue to use data from the Anti-Torture Database in upcoming campaigns for the 26th of June (the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture), awareness raising and for UPR and CAT processes; advocating the rights of torture survivors in the fight for justice.

For more information

Amis de victimes des violations des droits humains (AVVDH) mission is to promote the application of human rights law through advocacy and awareness-raising activities, prison visits and the provision of holistic rehabilitation services to victims of torture and sexual and gender-based violence.

Together with torture rehabilitation centres from Africa, Asia, Latin America, MENA and Europe, AVVDH is working with a global Anti-Torture Database. The database functions as a clinical record-keeping system that allows torture rehabilitation centres to capture, store and analyse data collected from torture victims throughout their rehabilitation process, adhering to strict ethical and safety standards.

To learn more about the IRCT’s data collection programme, please visit https://irct.org/campaigns/global-torture-data  

 “There is a tremendous need for collecting data from torture survivors and its consequences. Through the Anti-Torture Database from the IRCT, we collect medical, socio-demographic, psychological, legal and torture exposure data that help us document violations and demonstrates that torture is systemic and a widespread practice in the DRC. This empowers us and our clients to compel the government to take action.” 

-Mr. Bora-Uzima.

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