Diane Hostetler | Tom Kerns | Brian Saunders

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International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims: Website :From http://www.irct.org/usr/irct/home.nsf/unid/BKEN-62GCUQhttp://www.irct.org/usr/irct/home.nsf/unid/BKEN-62GCUQ:

The IRCT is an independent, international health professional organisation that promotes and supports the rehabilitation of torture victims and the prevention of torture through nearly 200 rehabilitation centres and programmes around the world.

Testimonies about torture in Pinochet's Chile
Newsletter Article, 30 Jun 2004
Earlier this year, the Chilean government invited all Chileans to testify incidences of torture and political detention during the 1973-1990 Pinochet dictatorship, and more than 30,000 people have done so. The IRCT partner organisation, CINTRAS, and many other human rights NGOs in Chile, have long fought for the rights of torture survivors, and they welcomed the establishment of the Commission for Imprisonment and Torture as a very important development for Chilean society.

At the same time, CINTRAS and other human rights NGOs have criticised the Commission for being too modest in its aims: instead of striving towards "adequate" reparation to victims, as stated in §14 of the UN Convention against Torture, the Commission's aim is a "symbolic and modest" reparation. Furthermore, the survivors' organisations have been calling on the Government to ask the torture survivors for forgiveness. The social consequences of having been arrested have been horrendous for the former political prisoners: they lost all their civil rights and have never again been allowed to vote, to work in the public sector, etc.

Countries, which in the future will establish similar commissions, can learn from the Chilean experience: The invitation to testify should be very widely circulated in order to ensure that people in remote areas and people in exile should also be able to testify. The way in which testimonies are handled is also important: privacy during the testimonies must be ensured, and there must be psychological support to the survivors in case the testimony causes retraumatisation. This often happens, especially if the survivor has never received help to overcome the trauma.

The IRCT Ambassador, Dr Inge Genefke, has for a long time supported the fight for the rights of torture victims in Chile, and on 8 June 2004, she became Commander of the Chilean order of Bernardo O'Higgins, the highest civilian decoration in Chile. The title of "Commander" was awarded by the Chilean Government in recognition of Inge Genefke's solidarity with Chile and the Chileans. Inge Genefke's work for victims of torture started in the 1970s when thousands of Chilean refugees came to Denmark. Many of these refugees were torture survivors, and from them Inge Genefke and her colleagues learnt about the horrendous practice of torture. Since the fall of the Pinochet dictatorship, the collaboration with the Chileans has extended to include Chilean rehabilitation centres for torture victims and human rights groups within the country. It was therefore with great joy that Inge Genefke received the title of Commander, declared by the Chilean Ambassador to Denmark, Jaime Lagos.

This page was last modified on 1 July 2004

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