June 26 is recognized internationally as United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. On this day in 1987, the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment went into effect. Every year, CVT commemorates the day with special events to recommit ourselves to heal survivors and end torture.
To show support for survivors of torture, people sent us messages of hope, comfort or support. We shared these with survivors through our projects in Jordan, Kenya, Ethiopia and St. Paul. Here are the words of a few CVT supporters:
Do not despair. You are remembered by thousands and loved for your sacrifices. Rebuild yourself with this knowledge and grow into the person that you were meant to be.
You are in our thoughts and hearts-we remember you. Have hope and stay strong.
I wish for you the strength of hope, the courage of your ancestors, and the solace of healing. You have my profound respect.
Suffering, like life, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Keep working toward that end, toward the beginning of joy.
26 June 2014 Commemorations
The CVT Dadaab team organized a half-day of events to commemorate June 26 in this large complex in northeast Kenya. A variety of performances were presented that reflected the cultural diversity in the camps. One group performed traditional Sudanese dances, there was a dance and drama performed by the Congolese community, and another group performed a dance from the Gambela region in Ethiopia with live music. One of the most emotional moments during the event was a group of Somali women performing a song about how torture destroyed their lives and how CVT helped restore their dignity. There were many tears during their performance.
CVT Field Coordinator Andrew Burridge welcomed the guests, which included refugees, CVT staff and dignitaries from the Government of Kenya and the United Nations. A short film about CVT was shown and representatives from Kenya’s Department of Refugee Affairs and Leonard Zulu, Senior Protection Officer from UNHCR in Dadaab, shared a message for the day.
CVT Ethiopia commemorated June 26 in the Adi Harush and Mai-Aini refugee camps in northern Ethiopia. The camps are home to Eritrean refugees forced to leave their country due to systematic human rights abusts, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and forced and indefinite conscription. CVT staff placed banners to educate residents in the camp about June 26. Events were held in both Adi Harush and Mai-Ani, with speeches, music and dance performances. One of the highlights in Adi Harush, was a song written and performed by CVT Pscychosocial counselor Meseret about being forced to leave home. In Mai-Aini, youth trained by Jesuit Refugee Services performed a dance. View more photos here.
CVT Jordan hosted an exhibition of art work by refugees, with a formal opening in which refugee survivors as well as several CVT staff members shared their testimonies through their art work and poem reciting.
As CVT’s Jordan treatment cycle end coincided with its commemoration of June 26th ‘International Day in Support of Victims of Torture,’ staff organized self-care bags for over 300 clients completing their treatment. In the final treatment session, clients were given the bags which contained gender and age appropriate items designed to reinforce aspects of their rehabilitation. Items such as ‘theraband’ an elasticated strip designed for strength exercises would both facilitate and remind clients to continue with their exercises. ‘Stress balls’ would help manage feelings of stress and could also be used as a grounding or distraction tool when clients felt overwhelming emotions or needed to focus on something other than pain. Children received art boxes to enable them to continue to express their emotions through art. Other items included wristbands and a signed card from CVT’s CEO Curt Goering which explained the June 26th Commemoration and an encouraging message for their future.
Over 100 people attended CVT Nairobi's June 26 event at Alliance Francaise, where the Oscar-nominated documentary, The Act of Killing, was shown. The film by James Oppenheimer focuses on the Indonesian killings of 1965-1966, an anti-communist purge in which more than 500,000 people were killed. A discussion followed the film screening.
In addition to the film screening, CVT Nairobi conducted conferences and workshops in two Universities and one professional college. The presentations discussed the Istanbul Protocol, international guidelines for documentation of torture and its consequences. The goal was to inform students and professionals about these guidelines and to sensitize them to the needs of refugee survivors of torture, war and other human rights abuses. Workshops were at the United States International University – Kenya; Daystar University and at the Kenya Medical Training College.
St. Paul, Minnesota
CVT's St. Paul Healing Center invited survivors, staff, volunteers and board members to share a meal and commemorate June 26 with formal remarks and a special presentation to a community member who has supported torture survivors in the greater Twin Cities area. The Healing Connections Award was provided to Tom Sengupta of Schneider Drug. Tom has been a community partner with CVT for 29 years, making a profound impact in the recovery and healing of hundreds of torture survivors in the Twin cities. He actively upholds the values that make a healthy community thrive and has supported CVT’s mission to end torture worldwide since 1989. Executive director Curt Goering offered remarks, as did Rosa Garcia-Peltoniemi, PhD, Senior Consulting Clinician (read Rosa’s remarks here). CVT staff and a board member read messages of hope and healing sent by supporters in honor of survivors everywhere. At the end of the program, woven bracelets in CVT’s colors red, orange and yellow, were handed out and guests assisted each other in tying the bracelets on. View photos of the event here.
CVT hosted its annual Eclipse Award presentation with an expert briefing on Fighting Impunity: Combating Torture & Human Trafficking. CVT Executive Director Curt Goering presented the Eclipse Award to David Crane, a professor of practice at Syracuse University College of Law. He is the founding Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and founder of Impunity Watch. He also launched the Syracuse University College of Law Syrian Accountability Project. Professor Crane recently served on a panel of experts who authored a detailed report documenting torture and other human rights abuses in Syria. The horrific accounts of torture described in this report are consistent with what CVT is hearing at its healing site in Jordan.
The panel discussion focused on the principles to fighting impunity—the right to know, the right to justice, the right to reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence – challenges to implementing these principles in the areas of combating torture, human trafficking, and other gross violations of human rights; and ways to move forward. Expert panelists included Professor Crane, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador at Large and Director of the US State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, David J. Luban, University Professor and Professor of Law at Georgetown University, and Mr. Goering. View photos of the event here.