Worrying trend shows increased number of child torture victims

An increasing number of child and adolescent victims of torture has been  reported by the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (UNVFVT) and the organizations it funds. In 2016, 5,279 child and adolescent victims of torture are expected to be assisted by organizations funded by the UNVFVT.  By contrast, in 2015, the organizations reported assisting 3,995 child victims up to the age of 18. Under an arrangement allowing UNVFVT emergency funding over the past two years, organizations say they estimate helping 52 children this year while in 2015, no children were among the victims given help.

“These numbers, as reported by grantees of the UNVFVT, are alarming. Torture is coming back, and coming back with a kind of acceptance. Nothing justifies this crime and yet torture is present everywhere, even against children, who are made the most vulnerable in these situations,” said Laura Dolci-Kanaan, Secretary of the UNVFVT.

“There is a pressing need to put the focus on the specific needs for rehabilitation assistance to children. We owe it to them and to future generations,” she added.

Overall, last year the UNVFVT provided direct help through 184 organizations to a total of more than 57,000 adult and child victims, in over 80 counties. In 2016, it will assist an estimated total of 47,000 victims, in over 81 countries through 178 organizations.

The organizations assisted by the UNVFVT give direct medical, psychological, social and legal help to torture victims. They include EXIL, Physicians for Human Rights, The Center for Victims of Torture, CAPREC Senegal and the Institute for Family Health at the Noor Al-Hussein Foundation, to name a few.

The UNVFVT operates at an annual budget of about US$9 million and is short of its target level of US$12 million that would allow it to respond to the many demands for help it receives.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, will address the subject at a discussion by experts in Geneva on Friday, 8 April. Doctors, lawyers, social workers and psychologists will discuss how to deal with child victims and prevent the transfer of the consequences of torture through the generations. The UNVFVT-hosted discussion, “How can children survive torture? Lessons learnt on their redress and rehabilitation,” will take place from 11:00 – 13:00 in Salle XII at Palais des Nations.

Participants include Jorge Barudy, Director and Founder of EXIL in Spain; Anette Carnelmalm, Head of the Swedish Red Cross Center for Victims of Torture and War; Sana Hamzeh, psychotherapist at  RESTART in Lebanon; Piya Muquit, Executive Director of the Justice Center in Hong Kong, China; and Paul Orieny, Clinical Advisor for Mental Health, The Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), United States of America.