UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture - Decision Making
The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture is subject to UN Rules and Regulations, and is managed by the United Nations Secretary-General through the OHCHR, with the advice of a Board of Trustees composed of five independent experts. The Board meets twice a year to determine priorities and review its policies and practices (February session) and adopt recommendations on grants (October session).
Grants are awarded on a yearly basis, and are renewable. A call for proposals is issued every year in January, with a deadline of 1 March. Applications may be submitted in English, French, and Spanish, ensuring access for small and medium organizations located in various regions.
Between April and October, the Secretariat of the Fund analyses applications submitted as well as narrative, financial and audit reports on the use of the previous grants, and organizes pre-screening visits to new applicants as well as regular monitoring visits to grantees.
The recommendations on grants adopted by the Board in October are then to be endorsed by the Secretary-General. As a rule, grants are disbursed in January, for the 12 months ahead.
The Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees has met annually since 1983 to consider project applications, approve the extension of grants, set guidelines for applicants including admissibility criteria and consider policy issues in relation to the Fund and the rehabilitation of victims of torture.
During its meetings, the Board holds consultations with donors. The Board also meets with project leaders of funded organisations in order to better understand the complexities that are faced by organizations providing services to victims of torture. Board members participate in visits to projects in the field.
In accordance with resolution 36/151, the Board of Trustees is comprised of a Chairperson and four members representing each of the five geographical regions, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western European and Other States Group. Board members are appointed by the Secretary-General from amongst experts with wide experience in the field of human rights, in particular torture and its effects on individuals, families and communities, as well as knowledge of fundraising and project management. Appointments are for a period of three years, renewable once.
The composition of the current Board is as follows:
Mr. Lawrence Murugu Mute (Kenya) is a lecturer at the School of Law of the University of Nairobi, with expertise in equality law, disability rights law and human rights law. He served as the Vice Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, member of the Committee on the Prevention of Torture, and member of the Working Group on Older Persons and People with Disabilities. He has worked with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the Centre for Law and Research International (CLARION).
Mr. Murugu Mute has been a member of the Fund’s Board since 2017.
Dr. Vivienne Nathanson (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) is a medical physician and lecturer in public health. She served for years at the British Medical Association as Director of Professional Activities. She is currently Principal Advisor on Public Health to the World Medical Association and Chair of the Ethics Committee of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Formerly, she sat on the Board of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), the largest network of torture rehabilitation centres worldwide.
Ms. Nathanson has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2017, and its current chairpserson since 2019
Mr. Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) is an internationally renowned human rights lawyer, who served as UN Special Rapporteur against Torture (2010 - 2016) and as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide (2004-2007). His illustrious career, portrayed in his autobiography “Taking a Stand”, began as a defense lawyer of political prisoners during the military junta in Argentina, where he was held as a prisoner of conscience. He served on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and held leadership positions in Human Rights Watch and the International Center for Transitional Justice, amongst others. He is currently the Faculty Director of the Anti-Torture Initiative of the American University Washington College of Law and a visiting professor at the University of Oxford.
Mr. Méndez has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2020.
Mr. Mikołaj Pietrzak (Poland) is an advocate specialising in criminal law and human rights. He is a partner in the Pietrzak & Sidor Law Office in Warsaw, and the Dean of the Warsaw Baw Association. He is a former chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the National Bar Council of Poland. He has extensive experience in trans-jurisdictional criminal cases as well as human rights cases and has represented both defendants and victims in domestic and international courts. He is a member of the Programme Committee of Amnesty International Poland, and a member of the Social Council at the Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights in Poland.
For his exceptional dedication and tireless work in support of human rights and the rule of law, Mikołaj Pietrzak received the 2018 Human Rights Prize of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE).
Mr. Pietrzak has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2016.
Ms. Sara Hossain (Bangladesh) is a lawyer at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh specialising in constitutional and public interest law, and gender equality and a partner at a Law firm in Dhaka. She also serves pro bono as the honorary executive director of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust. She is a former commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists.
Ms. Hossain has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2017.
The Secretariat is composed of staff members of OHCHR who are responsible for all administrative functions of the Fund and are the first point of contact between the Board of Trustees and beneficiaries.
The Secretariat monitors and evaluates the use of grants including through project visits, pre-screens new applicants, maintains contacts with other institutional donors in the field of assistance to victims of torture as well as donors to the Fund, prepares annual reports on the Fund, keeps abreast of the jurisprudence on torture and services the sessions of the Board.
The Secretariat can be reached at: