AJAR, KontraS (Indonesia) and National Peace Council (Sri Lanka) held a workshop to learn about strategies to strengthen survivors of torture and ill-treatment, as part of a longer-term effort to prevent recurrence and pursue accountability. Thirty practitioners from civil society groups and torture survivors gathered together from Indonesia, Timor Leste, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar/Burma to share their experiences and achievements in working directly with torture victims to fulfil their rights. Participants shared their contexts, comparing the incidences of torture in the past and present, assessing the effectiveness mechanisms used for redress, and sharing survivor-centred approaches.
The link between vulnerability and torture was discussed, pointing towards the fact that the most vulnerable sector of society – the poor, lower caste, marginalised and the demonised – are those who are the most susceptible to torture and ill-treatment. This vulnerability also becomes a barrier in accessing justice and other forms of redress, silencing the victims and thus creating a “perfect circle of impunity.” Another important finding was how impunity for mass torture in the past can reproduce an acceptance of torture in how we deal with ordinary crimes.
Guest speakers at the workshop, Ms. Valdi Van Reenen-Le Roux from the Trauma Center in Cape Town, and Dr. Marjorie Jobson from Khulumani, a victim’s organization from South Africa, also shared their experiences of working with survivors. Reflecting on her nation’s experience, Ms. Le Roux provided a stern reminder that “without dealing with trauma, nation-building will take a step back.” Dr. Jobson shared Khulumani’s experience to strengthen survivors through four distinct phases of “organization, recognition, restoration and transformation.”
This workshop is part of an on-going two-year project supported by the European Union to empower survivors of torture to strengthen accountability and to work to end torture.