26 June 2012, International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
The 26th of June marks the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture and provides us with an opportunity to honour the victims and survivors of torture, and for us all, survivors of torture and their allies, to stand in solidarity.
Despite its absolute prohibition, torture continues to be a global phenomenon: both physical and psychological torture. Torture is today prevalent in over half the world’s countries and this is a disgrace in the twenty-first century.
In Cyprus, we experienced the horrors of torture both during the liberation struggle of 55′-59 ‘, as well as during the invasion of 74’. Torture was also widely used by the junta in Greece and many Greeks who resisted the dictatorship were victims of cruel torture tactics.
The aim of torture is to exert power, to punish, to create fear and to destroy trust. It breaks down the victim’s personality and resilience. It is first and foremost a means of instilling fear in society at large. Torture is not only destructive for the individual and family, but also a crucial obstacle to economic and social development for whole societies.
Unlike many western world countries, Cyprus is not among those that practice torture, yet we are surrounded by states that systematically use torture against men, women, children, due to their political beliefs, their religion or against detainees and prisoners. Many refugees arriving in Cyprus seeking asylum are survivors of torture.
Several countries use sophisticated psychological violence such as mock executions, solitary confinement, or methods that leave no physical scars such as suffocation, electric shocks, and hanging. Others continue to use the methods that include different forms of sexual violence, rape, and burning.
The effects of torture continue long after the actual act has happened. And rehabilitation is crucial – for the individual, their family and the society in which they live. The purpose of rehabilitation is to empower the torture survivor to resume as full a life as possible. Rebuilding the life of someone whose dignity has been destroyed takes time and as a result long-term material, medical, psychological and social support is needed.
It is important to stress that rehabilitation is possible. And it works. The positive impact of rehabilitation efforts is often far-reaching. It goes beyond the impact on the individual to affect communities and society at large, and plays a key role in promoting democracy, co-existence, and respect for human rights.
Working with the above vision at heart, the Future Worlds Center in Nicosia has been operating the Unit for Rehabilitation of Torture Victims since 2006, offering victims of torture and their families psychological, social and legal support.