The International Day in support of the victims of torture, June 26th
The UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, observed on the 26th of June every year, is the global campaign to show support for torture survivors and their families. It is an opportunity for all those who seek a world without torture to speak out and remind the world that torture is a cruel violation of human rights. This Day aims to promote and strengthen solidarity with, and support for, the victims of torture and their family members locally as well as globally.
Torture is the one of the most profound human rights abuses, taking a terrible toll on millions of individuals and their families. Rape and severe sexual abuses, female genital mutilation (FGM), blows to the soles of the feet, burns, electric shocks, exposure to extreme light and heat, supply of contaminated food, sleep deprivation, shaking and beating are commonly used by torturers to break down an individual’s personality. As terrible as the physical wounds are, the psychological and emotional scars are usually the most devastating and the most difficult to repair. Many torture survivors encounter severe psychological consequences such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, recurring nightmares and flashbacks that severely affect their lives. They exhibit strong feelings including fear, helplessness, a sense of injustice, demoralization and loss of control over life.
The largest umbrella organization that supports the rehabilitation of torture victims and the prevention of torture worldwide, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) has adopted the theme “Right to Rehabilitation (R2R)” for the 26th of June 2015, emphasizing the need for and right to rehabilitation of torture survivors – a right guaranteed under the UN Convention against Torture. IRCT highlights that the trauma caused by torture reaches far beyond the direct victims – often it affects their families, friends as well as the community they interact with. Access to rehabilitation can help the victims of torture to heal the effects of torture, empower them to rebuild their life and gradually facilitate their full participation in the socioeconomic sphere of the society.
Cyprus does not have any record of exercising torture like 141 countries around the world. However, torture persisting in three quarters of the world affects our society as well. Cyprus receives a sufficient number of torture survivors and their families who fled from countries of their origins or habitual place of residence in order to seek for international protection. This highly vulnerable group of persons includes men and women of different ages and families with children as well as unaccompanied separated children. Many of these persons arrive in Cyprus in a traumatized psychological state and vulnerable health condition that require immediate psychological assistance, social support and medical attention in order to fight against impunity and resume their lives with dignity and full security. The Unit for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture (URVT) of Future Worlds Center, a non-profit, non-governmental organization in Cyprus, has been providing holistic multidisciplinary rehabilitation services since 2006. This Unit is currently funded by the United Nations Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Torture (UNVFVT).
Seizing this occasion of International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we would like to stress that torture survivors have endured severe pain and sufferings because of their race, gender, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group. Torture forever altered their lives but they are individuals with immense strength of survival and resilience. The support of our society can assist them to reclaim their life and rebuild their future, and that of their family and community.