UN CAT encourages wide interpretation of what states must offer for the rehabilitation of torture survivors

by zoejardiniere

23.11.2012 The UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) has issued a General Comment on the application of Article 14 of the UN Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which deals with rehabilitation and redress for victims of torture. The comment provided aim to ensure that states guarantee survivors of torture receive a wide range of provisions in order for them to be able to be rehabilitated to the greatest extent possible.

Freedom from Torture and The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) have been active in the debate on the scope of Article 14 provisions and have welcomed the general comment as a positive step towards ensuring the right to rehabilitation for all torture survivors and expressing satisfaction with the victim-centred approach undertaken. As a contributor to the discussions during the drafting of the comment, Freedom from Torture emphasised the need for a holistic approach to rehabilitation, for access to provisions and for the provision of gender and child-specific care. IRCT highlighted the importance of early identification of victims of torture and providing enhanced protection for particular groups such as children and ethnic minorities.

Some key elements included in the final draft of the comment are the specification that the family and dependents of victims of torture should also be considered victims and are entitled to rehabilitation where needed. This can be of great importance in cases where people have been forcibly ‘disappeared’, leaving their family members bereaved as well as potentially economically disadvantaged.

‘Redress’ was defined as including ‘restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition’ – thus clarifying that monetary compensation alone is not necessarily sufficient.

The comment notes that structural causes for victimisation, such as discrimination, must be addressed and that the continuous nature of the effects of torture means that it is not appropriate to apply statutes of limitations to such cases.

For further information:

–         Freedom from Torture Response to the Working Document on Article 14 of the UN Convention Against Torture September 2011

–         Freedom from Torture Discussion Paper: A Remedy for Torture Survivors in International Law: Interpreting Rehabilitation December 2010