Medical and Psychological Case Support
Why do we support torture litigation?
Impunity and insufficient evidence in cases against alleged perpetrators are still among the most serious impediments to the prevention of torture. The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims is therefore seeking to support more strategic litigation cases that could benefit from additional medical and psychological expertise and have the potential of increasing courts’ awareness and use of medical and psychological documentation in torture allegations.
Too often perpetrators of torture can continue their crimes without risking 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. Consequently, few complaints are brought forward and few actual prosecutions are made.
To support cases around the world, the IRCT, along with the Forensic Department of the University of Copenhagen, has set up an international focal point for forensic expertise. We are fortunate and proud that more than thirty eminent forensic experts from sixteen countries have joined this effort.
Which cases do we support?
The aim of the IRCT is to support strategic cases of torture litigation and increase victims’ access to the justice system. In particular, we wish to support those cases where medical documentation and analysis of the physical and psychological lesions of torture can increase the likelihood of success and provide the victim and their lawyers, as well as prosecutors and judges, with expert opinions that can be used as evidence.
While we seek to encourage the wider use of medical and psychological documentation in torture litigation cases, our resources are, naturally, limited and we therefore have to restrict ourselves to supporting cases selected on a strategic basis. While we aim at supporting cases in all regions of the world, there is currently a need for more cases in Africa. In particular, we prioritise those cases concerning vulnerable torture survivors, such as women and children, and cases concerning torture related to counter-terrorism measures and secret detention.
Our possibilities for support are, by and large, restricted to medical and psychological expertise. While we aim to liaise with litigating organisations in order to identify further legal support possibilities, we will mainly restrict ourselves to support cases that already have legal support and are likely to be found admissible by the courts. Those cases that would appear to gain substantial benefit from additional evidence and where there is a high likelihood that the court will take into consideration the medical and psychological documentation and expertise will be given priority.
What medical and psychological support can we offer?
We can facilitate direct medical and psychological expert support to strategic litigation cases:
- medical examinations, psychological evaluations and development of medico-legal reports according to the standards in the Istanbul Protocol;
- expert opinions on existing medical files and reports;
- general statements on torture practices, common sequelae and international standards for the examination and documentation of torture cases;
- technical advice on issues related to physical and psychological evidence of torture.
Where possible, interventions are carried out in close collaboration with a team of local health professionals. Pro-bono support may be granted in a select number of cases following individual assessment. This may also include modest financial assistance to rehabilitation and psychological support to the torture survivor bringing forward a legal claim.
What other support can we offer?
We help highlight selected cases through a variety of channels, such as mainstream media, social media and our own website and newsletters, where we often highlight victim’s testimonies. When examination missions occur we can promote the case through local and international media and meetings with government officials, national human rights institutions and other stakeholders as appropriate.
Careful assessment is made of particular needs and concerns in every case, including the protection of survivors, relatives and professionals involved. Should acute security concerns occur, we assist with urgent procedures such as letter writing to state authorities and relevant international actors.
The IRCT can also offer training to legal and health professionals working with litigation of torture cases and the prevention of torture.