Access to justice
Holding perpetrators responsible and pursuing reparations
Providing torture victims with access to justice involves two key components: The access to an effective remedy and reparation for the victim. Governments have the obligation to criminalise torture, to investigate all allegations and to prosecute perpetrators.
Reparations broadly comprise the range of individual and collective measures that may be taken to address wrongs suffered by victims of human rights abuses. It aims to erase all the consequences of the violation and re-establish the situation, which would, in all probability, have existed if the violation had not occurred. There are five widely acknowledged forms of reparation: restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.
Promoting the Istanbul Protocol
The Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – known as the Istanbul Protocol (IP) – provides internationally recognised guidelines and standards on how to identify, document and report physical and psychological symptoms of torture.
For a decade, the IRCT has promoted the national implementation of the Istanbul Protocol as a vital instrument to gather evidence and pursue criminal sanctions against alleged torturers. The generation of high-quality evidence can greatly enhance the quality of proceedings for justice and reparations by providing a reliable evidentiary basis for the courts to make their decision. The IRCT supports the Istanbul Protocol through the following activities:
- Organising and implementing training seminars for health and legal professionals on torture documentation in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol to promote victims’ access to a high quality medical evaluation of their torture allegations.
- Drawing on our network of forensic medical experts to supervise and conduct medical examinations to document torture and generate evidence that can be used in legal proceedings.
- Assisting in the development of university curricula to train the next generation of health and legal professionals on the Istanbul Protocol.
- Advocating with international and regional bodies to improve their recommendations to states on national implementation of the Istanbul Protocol.
- Encouraging governments to abide by their obligations to hold perpetrators of torture to account, thereby ending impunity and ensuring justice for victims.
Victims support in legal proceedings
It is important to note that while the pursuit of legal action and acquisition of reparations can have a positive therapeutic effect on the torture victims involved, there is also a risk that the process can further traumatise victims by forcing them to revisit the horrible treatment that was inflicted upon them, raising false hopes or exposing them to threats and pressure. Seeking legal redress in a way that minimizes potential negative consequences to victims and maximizes reparations is vitally important to a well-functioning criminal justice system.
The IRCT recognises the vital role that rehabilitation centres play in supporting this process, by giving psycho-social and legal support to victims, gathering data on torture in their populations and generating evidence to be used in pursuing legal ends. Our initiatives, consequently, aim to support the work of member centres in these areas.
Promoting access to effective remedy and reparations
In order for torture victims to have access to an effective remedy and reparations it is imperative that effective national mechanisms and procedures are in place. The IRCT promotes this through its international and regional advocacy work targeting a wide range of bodies including the relevant UN human rights mechanisms, EU institutions, the Council of Europe, the Inter-American Human Rights System and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Furthermore, the IRCT may enter into strategic partnerships with our members to promote access to effective remedy and reparations at the national level.
For more information please visit the Preventing Torture site