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UN human rights chief appeals for worldwide support for victims of torture

GENEVA (28 June 2011) – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay appealed for worldwide support for the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, which provides financial assistance to over 300 projects in more than 65 countries in Africa, Asia, Central Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, and supports tens of thousands of victims every year.

“Member States that have not yet contributed to the Fund should reconsider their position and donate generously so that more and more victims could benefit from its work,” Pillay said at the opening of an exhibit of artwork created by victims of torture as part of their rehabilitation process, to mark the Fund’s 30th anniversary. “I thank the donors for their financial support to the Fund and encourage them to continue their assistance.”

The Fund is facing a funding shortfall which has forced it to reduce its support to many organizations providing psychological, medical and social assistance to thousands of victims of torture throughout the world. Legal aid and financial support programmes have also been affected.

“Beneficiaries of the Fund’s support are victims of both physical and psychological torture, ranging from severe beatings, sexual violations and mock executions to continuous threats, sleep deprivation and been forced to face the torture of loved ones,” Pillay said.

“Every project funded is unique,” said the High Commissioner who recently visited one of the schemes supported by the Fund in Africa: the VIVRE CAPREC rehabilitation centre for victims of violence in Thiès, Senegal. The centre has helped more than 1,000 victims from 17 countries across the African continent during the last 10 years.

“I was able to hear the testimonies of several victims. These included a woman who had come to the centre as a refugee after she and her mother had been raped by security forces whilst fleeing unrest in Mauritania,” Pillay said. “I also heard the harrowing account of a Liberian man who had been tortured and blinded during his country’s brutal civil war.”

The head of the Fund’s Board of Trustees, Mercedes Doretti, warned that after an all-time-high of US$11.6 million in 2008, contributions by donors to the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, 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 in more than 65 countries,” said Doretti, who joined the High Commissioner at the exhibition opening.

The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture celebrated its 30th anniversary on 26 June 2011. To mark the occasion, the UN headquarters in Geneva is housing, from 27 to 30 June, an exhibition of paintings, pictures, sculptures and other types of artistic expression created by victims of torture 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.

The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Pages/TortureFundMain.aspx

Learn more about the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/HighCommissioner.aspx

Click here to visit OHCHR website: http://www.ohchr.org

For more information or media requests, please contact spokesperson Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or press officers Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) and Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org).

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