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IRCT’sTorture Journal

December 27, 2010

TORTURE: Journal on Rehabilitation of
Torture
Victims and Prevention of Torture

…is published by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), based in Denmark. Subscriptions are available either in hardcopy or online (or both) as are back issues. In consideration of the economic realities facing those who live in countries where torture is prevalent, the IRCT offers subscriptions free. The journal’s production and shipping costs are substantial, however, so the IRCT encourages use of the online version. We’d suggest that any U.S. subscribers who want the hard copy should consider making a contribution to the organization.
            Some recent highlights…

       •  GROUP THERAPY MODEL FOR REFUGEES AND TORTURE SURVIVORSVolume 20, Number 2 (2010). This article from a recent issue points out that many refugee torture survivors come from collective cultures, where healing typically takes place in a collective context. Many have also experienced “collective identity traumas,” e.g., having been singled out for torture because of belonging to a particular ethnic or other group. For this reason, they suggest, group therapy may be particularly appropriate for such clients. 

“…refugees and torture survivors went through, and are possibly still going through, a host of different trauma types that include personal and collective identity traumas and which have cumulative effects. Cumulative trauma dynamics are different from the dynamics of single trauma.” 

The authors document the creation and evolution of two therapy groups developed at Atlanta’s Center for Torture and Trauma Survivors (CTTS.) Bashaal was a group for individual Somali, Ethiopian, and other sub-Saharan women who had suffered both war trauma and torture (including rape.) A Bhutanese group, in contrast, consisted of five to eight families of torture survivors. The article also notes that in some cases the therapy group experience may be expanded to encompass community healing as well, as group participants decide to transform their group into a social club or community organization.
            The report’s authors are Ibrahim A. Kira, PhD, Asha Ahmed, PhD, Vanessa Mahmoud, MA, and Fatima Wassim, all of the Center for Torture and Trauma Survivors in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Kira is the Center’s Director. A number of CTTS staff and clients, including Dr. Kira, were interviewed for our forthcoming documentary, Refuge: Caring for Survivors of Torture.

       •  DESK STUDY: COMBATING TORTURE WITH MEDICAL EVIDENCE – Volume 20, Number 3 (2010). The journal’s latest issue is devoted to a full-length exploration of the use of both medical evidence and expert testimony in legal proceedings against perpetrators of torture. It includes studies focusing on five countries with differing legal systems: Ecuador, Georgia, Lebanon, the Philippines, and Uganda. Author: Asger Kjaerum, LLM.

“Impunity and insufficient evidence in cases against alleged perpetrators are still among the most serious impediments to the prevention of torture. Too often perpetrators of torture can commit their crimes without risk of arrest, prosecution or punishment. Besides adding to the suffering of the victims, such a situation leads to a general lack of trust in justice and the rule of law.

•  PUNISHING PHYSICIANS WHO TORTURE: A WORK IN PROGRESSVolume 20, Number 1 (2010). Authors Steven H. Miles, MD, Telma Alencar, and Brittney N. Crock performed an extensive documentary, literature, and database search for cases in which physicians have been punished for participation in or complicity with torture or crimes against humanity. As the authors note, “”Very few physicians who torture are ever identified. Of those identified, few are subject to hearings.” However, they found 56 physicians in eight countries who had been so disciplined. Most were in four countries in South America (Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay), followed by Africa (Rwanda and South Africa); none were in the United States. (Graphic above from IRCT.)

Brazilian psychiatrist, Amilcar Lobo, who admitted overseeing the torture of 500 prisoners, offered this chilling defense, “Man has used torture and assassination for thousands of years and permitted it as long as it is socially organized. It is but an instant between the Inquisition’s torture and murder of the Jews and the Nazi regime’s similar actions forty years ago. This is human nature; I am not ashamed to be part of it.”

This is an ongoing project. The updated findings and documentation are available in spreadsheet form on Dr. Miles’ website (toward bottom of page.) The project welcomes information about additional cases of confirmed punishments – with documentation. Contact Dr. Miles by email.
            Dr. Steven Miles is the author of Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror. (If ordering books or DVDs discussed in this blog from Amazon, please consider doing so through our website, which will help to support the work of The Refuge Media Project. Click on the book title above to be redirected to our site.) 

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