Human Rights Day 2014: Psychosocial Support in focus with launch of Report

To mark this year's Human Rights Day, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) together with Balay Rehabilitation Center has launched the report 'In Pursuit of Justice', casting a light on psychosocial support for victims of torture in legal proceedings.

Psychosocial Support for victims of torture in the pursuit of justice is a key area within rehabilitation.

Fear of reprisals and re-traumatisation, no belief in the justice system and fear of stigmatisation from community or family members are some of the factors dissuading victims of torture from participating in legal proceedings against their perpetrators.

In addition, a trial is often an emotionally painful process during which the torture victim will require constant support from health and legal professionals to prevent re-traumatisation.

However, despite the potentially positive impact, the issue currently receives little attention. In general there is a lack of awareness of the degree to which torture can affect a victim's testimony and therefore the impact that participation in legal proceedings can have on the victim's psychological well-being.

By offering victims of torture specialised psychosocial support and access to justice programmes, centres can help them overcome the psychological burden of a trial, and also enhance the therapeutic impact of justice on the individual's rehabilitation.

"On this Human Rights Day, the IRCT puts the spotlight on a critical yet neglected area within the fight against impunity and rehabilitation itself. The positive effects of psychosocial support to victims of torture in legal proceedings and to the fight against impunity cannot be ignored," said Victor Madrigal-Borloz, IRCT Secretary-General.

The report is the result of a fruitful collaboration between our organisation and the IRCT, with the valuable contribution of torture victims and the professionals working to support them.

The report is now available for download at www.irct.org

Balay-UATC NPM Statement

Opening up and shedding light into Places of Deprivation of Liberty;

Strengthening the protection of Persons Deprived of their Liberty against Torture and Ill-Treatment

UATC Media Statement

5 November 2014, Quezon City

In spite of a domestic legal framework, torture continues to persist in the Philippines. Prominent case include the Tondo Asuncion Community Precinct incident and the Binan "Wheel of Torture" case. While a few cases have been brought to the public, many remain unpublicized. More concerning is the fact that no perpetrator has been brought to justice. Both the Tondo Asuncion Community Precinct and Binan "Wheel of Torture" incident were cases where the victims were in places of detention.

The correctional and custodial system is wracked by many problems. Many jails and prisons are characterized by over-crowding and poor living conditions. Drug abuse, violence, ill-treatment and torture continue to be an issue. Exacerbating the problem is the slow judicial process. These compromise the physical and mental health of prisoners and counteract the goal of development, rehabilitation and reintegration.

Given this context, we are in dire need of a system that will open up and shed light into places of deprivation of liberty through visits by independent experts with a view of strengthening people's protection against torture and ill-treatment.

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MEDIA ADVISORY

MEDIA ADVISORY

From: Balay Rehabilitation Center and United Against Torture Coalition (UATC)

What: Media Briefing on Legislating the establishment of a new agency to protect persons deprived of their liberty

When: 5 November 2014, 10:00 AM to 12:00 NN

Where: Max's Restaurant, Quezon City Memorial Circle, Quezon City

Media Advisory

On 5 November 2014 (Wednesday), a media briefing shall be held to create public awareness on the obligations of the Philippine Government under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other, Cruel, inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT): the establishment of a National preventive Mechanism (NPM). The panellists will introduce the importance of having an NPM and a domestic system of regular preventive visits for the protection of persons deprived of their liberty against torture and ill-treatment. The panellists will also expound in the key requirements of setting up the NPM and key features the new institution must have in order to carry out its mandate effectively.

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DFI Project Launched

13 to 17 October 2014, Copenhagen Denmark, delegates from Asia, Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe gathered for a training workshop about the Data in the Fight against Impunity (DFI) Project. The project aims to create a global network of torture rehabilitation centres collecting a universal set of clinical data. The data is geared towards creating global and regional torture reports. Locally, the data is intended to be a tool to make states accountable; make justice and rehabilitation services accessible to victims and popularize the issue of torture. Balay Rehabilitation Center, together with the Medical Action Group, represented the Philippines in the training workshop. The training workshop was facilitated by the International Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (IRCT). The project is funded by the European Union (EU).

Living in the Shadows

Another study of Balay, this time in collaboration with the International Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) has been published. The study looks at the phenomenon of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and armed conflict in NPA areas. You can download the research using the link at the end of this page. Below is a brief description of the research.

In recent years, much of the attention paid to internal displacement in Mindanao has focused on central and Western Mindanao. This displacement is primarily the result of prolonged conflict between Muslim rebels groups – in particular the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – and the government. The conflict, often described as a contestation between groups of indigenous people, known as the Bangsamoro, and non-native newcomers to the region, has claimed the lives of an estimated 150,000 people in the last four decades and displaced millions. Progress towards a final resolution of this conflict appears on track.

However, no comparable progress has been made towards ending the 46-year old conflict between the government and the New People's Army (NPA) the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Peace talks continue to be mired by half-hearted efforts on both sides and a perception that neither party is willing to make concessions. The government's security forces and the NPA continue to clash regularly, in particular in Eastern and Northern Mindanao where the conflict exacts a heavy toll on the mainly indigenous civilian population. Unlike the Bangsamoro conflict, the NPA insurgency attracts little attention, despite being one of the longest running conflicts in the world and despite its ongoing impact on the civilian population. This is partly due to the fact that most of the violence and most of the suffering caused to civilians, including regular displacements, take place in remote areas and remain under-reported. The armed conflict is not the only displacement threat indigenous people in Mindanao – commonly referred to as Lumad – are exposed to. Their land and human rights are also under attack as outsiders seek to exploit their abundant natural resources: Mindanao is thought to hold the country's largest reserves of nickel, copper and gold.Resistance to natural resource extraction projects is sometimes met with violence. Many indigenous people are forcibly evicted, particularly those who lack ancestral land titles or other proof of ownership of land and resources. Tension and conflict over land access and management add another dimension to the violence and may be fuelling the armed conflict and increasing NPA recruitments.

Natural disasters, in particular flooding, are another major and frequent cause of displacement in the region. On 4 December 2012, Typhoon Bopha (locally referred to as Pablo) struck Mindanao, forcing close to a million of the 6.2 million people impacted to evacuate their homes. The typhoon's high wind speed and flooding caused extensive damage, with over 235,000 homes destroyed or damaged and further destruction of public infrastructure. The eastern part of the island bore the brunt of the casualties and damage, with indigenous communities particularly affected. As elsewhere in Mindanao, deforestation due to logging, mining, and the extensive cultivation of banana plantations in mountainous areas increased poor communities' vulnerability to flash floods and landslides. Even before their displacement most Lumad people, including former IDPs studied in this report, lived in remote,poor and marginalised areas where the unstable security situation has been hampering development efforts. As a result many Lumad communities struggle to cope with the economic and social consequences of their repeated displacement. They are unable to build up any assets that would sustain them in times of crisis and remain in a constant state of alarm and uncertainty about their futures.

The right of indigenous people not to be displaced from their land is guaranteed by Filipino law, in particular the 1997 Indigenous People Rights Act (IPRA), and also by the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), an accord signed by the government and the NPA in 1998. As long as counter-insurgency operations continue to target indigenous communities and IPRA and CARHRIHL are not effectively enforced, these communities will continue to be locked in a cycle of regular displacement to escape conflict and violence.

In this report IDMC aims to assess the impact of multiple displacements caused by the government-NPA conflict on Lumad communities in eastern Mindanao, identify the main obstacles to sustainable return and recovery and make policy recommendations to address these. The study also sought to assess the extent to which communities previously affected by the conflict are more vulnerable to the effects of the disaster as a result of previous loss of assets and physical isolation and socio- economic marginalisation.