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.
This year, we ask you to join us in honoring June 26 by sending us a photo with your message to the world on June 26. We’ll post them in a special CVT Facebook photo album and share with our supporters and torture rehabilitation colleagues around the world. Email your images to cvt [at] cvt [dot] org (include your name and organization if you would like). Please know that by sending us your photo, you are giving the Center for Victims of Torture permission to use your image without limitation. Below are some images to get you started.
In Washington, D.C., CVT will cosponsor with the Human Rights Institute at Georgetown Law and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota the symposium Torture is a Weapon Against Democracy: How the United States is Working to End Torture Globally. This half-day symposium will bring together policymakers, academics, non-governmental organizations and torture survivors for a discussion on torture as an assault on fundamental pillars of democracy, and why rehabilitation is necessary for establishing or restoring democratic institutions. CVT will present Sen. Patrick Leahy with the Eclipse Award. Symposium details here.
Other events to honor June 26 will be held by CVT in Jordan and Kenya. We’ll provide updates on those events here.
Events held in 2012 are described below.
CVT Democratic Republic of Congo
The theme for CVT Democratic Republic of Congo's June 26, 2012 event was Tous Unis pour le Respect de la Dignité Humaine/All United for the Respect of Human Dignity. CVT staff in the DRC coordinated a motor caravan around Moba to engage the community in a public message of support for torture and war survivors and to speak out against torture. CVT DRC also sponsored a workshop including community leaders and other partner agencies and organizations in the community.
To commemorate June 26, 2012, CVT Jordan organized a poster competition and 2 open houses, one at CVT’s Amman center and another in Zarqa with CVT Jordan’s mobile unit.
Around 75 Iraqi refugees, mostly children, were welcomed at CVT’s center in Amman on the first of July 2012. The activities began with a small ceremony to announce the winners of the 2012 poster competition under the theme “A Space of Hope.” Country Director Simone van der Kaaden spoke and presented prizes to the artists. The artists discussed their work, which expressed a glimpse of hope for torture survivors. After the presentation to the artists, the children were divided into two groups to participate in a puppet show. They made their own puppets and created a show with the help of CVT psychosocial counselors. In the meantime, their parents were engaged in relaxation sessions with the physiotherapists. They were introduced to breathing techniques and relaxation methods. The teenagers were invited to paint and express themselves on a long piece of cloth with water colors. Many used the opportunity to express their feelings of Iraqi national pride and their hope for the future.
After a lunch break with pastries and refreshments, around 13 teenagers, males and females, engaged in a music performance. A professional music therapist instructed them to sing a traditional Arabic Andalusian song, while he accompanied them playing Oud (Arabic traditional guitar). The singing performance was followed by a group discussion sharing their interpretation of the poem and their feelings about collective singing. At the same time, a professional artist helped the youngest children design necklaces out of newspapers and strings, and draw by using colorful sand in bottles. The music performance and craft workshop ended up with the distribution of CVT self care gifts to the participants.
At the end of the day, one mother said, “It was the happiest day my children had since they came to Jordan… they didn’t want to go home!” It was a feeling felt by other parents.
In 2012, CVT Kenya hosted two public events – in the refugee camp in Dadaab and in Nairobi in partnership with the Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU), a widely regarded torture rehabilitation center headquartered in the capitol. In Dadaab, Dominic Bartsch with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees addressed the gathering and CVT’s project coordinator, Billy Adago, gave the keynote speech. Afterwards, CVT staff and refugees participated in role plays, messages of struggle, poetry, songs and dance to commemorate June 26.
In Nairobi, CVT participated in a two day event with IMLU. The first day included speeches, discussions, questions and answers with prominent guests including Kenya's Chief Justice, Police Commissioner, Justice Minister, Senior Human Rights Advisor to the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Kenya and the Director of Public Prosecutions, among others. The second day was a national symposium that wills together civil society groups, legal practitioners, media, advocacy and human right groups.
In Minneapolis, CVT welcomed Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter and Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman as honored guests. Both commissioners offered a message of welcome to refugees and noted their significant contributions to the fabric of our local communities.
After the program, CVT staff, volunteers, board members and community members gathered on the front lawn in a circle as a symbolic gesture of standing in unity against torture and in support of rehabilitation for survivors.
In Washington, D.C., the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture received the annual Eclipse Award in recognition of their work to protect and rehabilitate torture survivors. Dr. Morad El-Shazly, a member of the Fund’s Board of Trustees, accepted the award on behalf of the Fund. Paula Schriefer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Humanitarian and Social Affairs, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, gave the keynote speech and spoke about the importance of CVT’s work in human rights. She also read from this year’s White House statement on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5) also stopped by and made brief remarks reaffirming his commitment to supporting torture rehabilitation.