22nd Feb 2018

Rehabilitation & Reintegration

Nepalese have experienced various forms of torture not only when the internal conflict was at its peak but before the conflict and after the restoration of democracy. During these phases many have lost their lives, equal number or more disappeared and many more are living with physical and psychological disability due to torture inflicted on them by the then state as well as the other party to the conflict i.e. the then Maoists rebels. People who have gone through such physical and psychological problems hardly get assistance from state mechanisms and other non state organizations that are providing services targeted to such people except for few. In many instances the non state actors who aimed at providing services to such victims and their families have problems reaching the targeted groups as many of them hails from remote areas and the victims who are near to cities are reluctant to come forward and tell the stories more importantly due to fear. But after the restoration of democracy, the rate of torture cases came to public drastically.

Torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.” Therefore, torture is the intentional infliction of severe mental or physical pain or suffering by or with the consent of the state authorities for a specific purpose. Torture is often used to punish, to obtain information or a confession, to take revenge on a person or persons or create terror and fear. Some of the most common methods of physical torture include beating, electric shocks, stretching, submersion, suffocation, burns, rape and sexual assault. Torture victims often feel guilt and shame, triggered by the humiliation they have endured.

The consequences of torture reach far beyond immediate pain. Victims suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with symptoms such as flashbacks, severe anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, depression and memory lapses.

Psychological forms of torture and ill-treatment, which very often have the most long-lasting consequences for victims, commonly include: isolation, threats, humiliation, mock executions, mock amputations, and witnessing the torture of others.

Anyone can be a victim of torture – children, adults, young and old, intellectuals as well as uneducated. Very often politicians, union leaders, journalists, health professionals, human rights defenders, people in detention or prison, members of ethnic minorities, and student leaders become the victim of torture. Victims of torture do not suffer alone but their families and friends are also affected.

Those most likely to be involved in torture include persons such as prison officers/detention staff, police, military, paramilitary forces, state-controlled contra-guerilla forces and in the context of armed conflicts torture is inflicted also by opposition forces. The government of Nepal has ratified the Convention Against Torture (CAT) in 1991 which obligates the government to assert responsibility for the prevention of torture and the redress for victims of torture. And therefore, the government is ultimately responsible for any torture that occurs within its boundaries.

Victims’ previous state can be attained through providing them rehabilitation services. The rehabilitation aims to empower torture victim to live their life to the fullest. To attain previous state takes time and hence long-term material, medical, psychological and social support is needed. Treatment must be a coordinated effort that covers both physical and psychological aspects. It is important to take into consideration the patients’ needs, problems, expectations, views and cultural references.

PPR Nepal has established a Kathmandu based rehabilitation center to provide comprehensive care to torture victims and their families in 2006. The center provides medical treatment, psychosocial counseling, physiotherapy, legal aid/counseling and financial support (a small amount of money for travel and food expenses). Likewise, PPR Nepal operates mobile health clinics in various parts of the country, through which it provides medical, psychosocial and legal services to torture victims who are not able to visit PPR Nepal’s rehabilitation center in Kathmandu.

Medical services: Through the centre based rehabilitation centre in Kathmandu, victims of torture are provided medical, psychosocial and legal support. Till date, more than 200 victims got medical, psychosocial counseling and legal counseling services through centre based comprehensive care and mobile health clinics.

Psychosocial counseling: The victims who visited the centre were also provided psychosocial counseling services. During the documentation, if the counselor finds the client to be counseled then this service is provided. Psychosocial counselor at PPR Nepal’s centre provides counseling services. Depending on the client, 3-4 sessions of counseling service enough for a client also depending on the seriousness of the case. In all cases after counseling, clients have improved significantly. It has helped to build confidence within themselves which they had lost after the torture incident.

Legal Aid/Counseling: The victims who visited the centre to receive medical support are provided legal counseling as per the need. The legal counseling is provided to the victims so as to guide them if they wanted to file cases against their perpetrator. The centre’s lawyer provided counseling to the victims. After going through the victims’ history, the lawyer decides whether to provide her/him legal aid or not. Though the lawyer advices the victims to file for torture compensation and punish the perpetrator, it depends on the wish of the victims and the situation of the case. Victims often prefer not to file the case due to the threat from the perpetrator and the complex and lengthy court procedure. The main task of the centre’s lawyer in this situation would be to help him/her get out of this situation and motivate to take legal action against the perpetrator but taking into account the safety and security of the victim.

Mobile Health Clinic: Centre conducts mobile health clinics in some parts of the country to provide medical services to torture victims. The health clinic team usually consists of a medical doctor, psychosocial counselor and a lawyer. The victims’ health is examined by the doctor and re provided medications. During the mobile health camp the locals were also made aware about their human rights in general and right not to be tortured. Medical doctor, psychosocial counselor and a lawyer from PPR Nepal informed locals about medical, psychosocial and legal aspects of torture.

International day in support of Victims of Torture: Every year on 26 June, PPR Nepal in collaboration with like minded organization organize different programs to observe International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. It conducts interaction program, workshop or sharing forum to share and discuss the situation of torture in Nepal where the major stakeholders such as police are also invited. In such program reports of incidents of torture in the country and ways to eradicate it are also presented and discussed.

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