Generate and Use Forensic Evidence in the Fight against Torture
The goal of the project is to contribute to the prevention of torture through promoting and producing documentation of torture to facilitate investigation and prosecution of court cases concerning allegations of torture.
It aims to:
- increase the availability of high quality forensic documentation concerning allegations of torture
- use and facilitate victims’ access to forensic documentation as evidence in legal proceedings
- increase awareness about the significance of medical forensic evidence, victims’ rights and state obligations under the UN Convention against Torture to investigate and prosecute perpetrators.
The project began on 1 April 2009 and is now in its final year of implementation. The total project budget is €1,781,258 of which 80% is funded by the European Commission.
The second interim report was submitted in early May, following the project mid-term external evaluation and a 'Results Oriented Monitoring' exercise conducted by the EC. Local partners and focal point members will together address the resultant recommendations in order to bring the project to a successful conclusion. It has become clear that the need for medical and psychological case support takes a number of different forms, besides examination of torture survivors in countries where the torture has taken place. There has also been a need for statements and opinions by medical experts on the shortcomings of existing medical documentation, on typical sequelae of torture, and on health conditions in prisons etc. Financial support for medical examinations has also been requested in a few instances. Capacity building of legal and health professionals have been requested in the majority of cases.
Project partners and target countries
The Forensic Department at the Health Faculty at the University of Copenhagen is an official partner and has participated in examination missions and conferences related to forensic evidence. The international expert group, composed of more than 30 forensic physicians and psychologists from sixteen countries has provided input to mission, manuals and discussions.
National partners in Ecuador, Georgia, Lebanon, and the Philippines have all arranged training and awareness-raising events. Missions have been conducted to Georgia and the Philippines to examine alleged torture victims and cases are also being investigated in Ecuador.
Main activities to date
- A portfolio of over 30 potential cases has been drawn up. Medico-legal reports or expert statements have been submitted in more than half of these cases. Examination and training missions have been undertaken to Georgia, the Philippines, Russia, Thailand, Cambodia, New Zealand, Venezuela and Israel/Palestine.
- The Manual on Minimum Operational Standards for the Conduct of Examination Missions is being tested in connection with examination missions relating to the selected cases.
- A desk study on the use of medical evidence concerning cases of torture in judicial mechanisms at international, regional and national level has been published in TORTURE Journal, as has an article on Forensic Photography.
- A side event on “Exploring Sustainable Systems to Document Torture” – in particular with regard to the role of health experts - was organised jointly with the World Medical Association at the UN Human Rights Council, March 2010. A presentation on the Istanbul Protocol was made to the CAT in late 2010 and has resulted in increased interaction.
- IRCT staff and experts from the international group have promoted the use of medical evidence in torture cases at a number of scientific events, most recently during the 63rd Annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Chicago. Also, the value of medical evidence in human rights violations was discussed at workshop for lawyers at the IACHR in Washington, co-organised with the ICRC.
- A Newsletter entitled “Documenting Torture – Newsletter on the use of forensic evidence in the fight against torture” is being produced and disseminated on a regular basis.
- Advocacy and awareness raising interventions have also been initiated in the four target countries, including development of alternative CAT reporting in Ecuador and ten Round Table meetings in Lebanon with participation of some 40-50 lawyers, judges and forensic doctors as well as staff from the Internal Security Forces.
An examination mission to Mexico is in the pipeline. A workshop on torture and medical forensic evidence is being organized in September as part of the International Association of Forensic Scientists triennial meeting. Also in September a workshop on medical evidence and strategic litigation is planned for representatives from legal organisations. A film defining the importance and use of the Istanbul Protocol in the prosecution of alleged torture cases and establishing the link between this and the Prevention of Torture is currently being produced and is expected to be available shortly.
For more information please visit the Preventing Torture site