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“30 years of rebuilding lives in danger,” warns UN Fund for Victims of Torture

GENEVA (23 June 2011) – The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture revealed today that a funding shortfall has forced them to reduce its support to many organizations providing psychological, medical and social assistance to thousands of victims of torture throughout the world. Support to legal aid programmes, crucial to fight impunity and bring perpetrators to justice, has also been affected.

“After 30 years of achievements in rebuilding lives of victims of torture, the future of many projects is now at risk because of a reduction in voluntary contributions by donors,” warned Mercedes Doretti, who currently chairs the Board of Trustees of the Fund. “The funding situation is seriously limiting our capacity to assist victims of torture in more than 70 countries in Africa, Asia, Central Asia, Latin America, Eastern and Western Europe.”

“We need further support to continue funding projects like the ones in the Democratic Republic of the Congo assisting victims of sexual violence; or in Rwanda assisting survivors of the genocide; or the project in Southern Iraq who used to provide reconstructive surgery to dozens of victims of punitive ear amputation, a brutal method of torture systematically used under Saddam Hussein’s regime; or projects in Argentina representing victims of grave human rights violations in trials against perpetrators from the past military regime,” Ms. Doretti said.

After an all-time-high of US$11.6 million in 2008, contributions by donors to the Fund, mainly Member States of the United Nations, have been decreasing for two years in a row, to just over US$9 million in 2010.

In 2011, the Fund examined and evaluated over 320 grant applications from individuals, groups and organizations seeking over US$22 million for direct assistance and training and seminars for professionals assisting victims. The funding shortfall has forced the Board to cut by 10 to 20% the grants awarded this year to more than 300 projects,” Ms. Doretti stressed.

The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture will celebrate its 30th anniversary on 26 June 2011 with an appeal to States to increase their voluntary contributions so it can keep rebuilding lives of thousands of victims of torture around the world.

On this occasion, an exhibit of artwork made by victims of torture will be held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, from 21 to 30 June. The exhibition will present paintings, pictures, sculptures and other types of artistic expression created by the victims as part of their rehabilitation process.

The Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, established in 1981, helps to ease the physical and psychological effects of torture on victims and their families. The Fund gives grants to organizations that offer psychological, medical and social assistance as well as legal aid and financial support. It also finances training programmes, seminars and conferences, allowing health professionals, social workers and lawyers to exchange experiences and develop new strategies to address the needs of torture victims.

Learn more about the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Pages/TortureFundMain.aspx

How to apply to the Fund: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Pages/onlineapplicationsystem.aspx

Check the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cat.htm

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Ennio Boati (Tel.: +41 22 917 9497/ email: eboati@ohchr.org) or Ms. Laurence André (Tel.: + 41 22 917 9645 / email: landre@ohchr.org).

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