Picture: Atelier peinture de Claire Harel, association Mana, France
" Atelier peinture de Claire Harel, association Mana, France "

United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture - What the Fund does

The overarching objective of the work supported by the UN Torture Fund is to assist victims of torture and their family members to rebuild their lives, providing immediate and accessible remedies. This is implemented through the award of grants to a variety of channels of assistance, including, civil society organisations, associations of victims and their family members, private and public hospitals, legal clinics, public interest law firms and individual lawyers.

Types of assistance

Direct humanitarian assistance is provided in the following fields:

Medical assistance, includes, residential treatment, referrals to specialists and mobile health clinics. The medical assistance treats the physical after-effects of torture. Following diagnosis by a general practitioner, treatment is provided by medical specialists in the fields of orthopaedics, neurology, physiotherapy, paediatrics, sexual health, urology as well as traditional healing and complementary medicine.

The grants are therefore used for example, for salaries of doctors, laboratory tests, diagnostics, ambulances and transportation of victims, medical expertise for tribunals, medicines, and surgery.

Psychological assistance, includes, individual, couple, group and family therapy counselling, art therapy (theatre, painting, sculpture), occupational therapy, meditation/acupuncture and other culturally sensitive and appropriate techniques, psychological support in preparation for attendance to trials. Psychological assistance is provided to enable victims of torture to overcome the psychological trauma they have experienced. Individual therapy, whether based on clinical, psychoanalytical, behavioural or other therapy, seeks to assist victims with their gradual reintegration into society. Psychiatric therapy may be combined with medication to alleviate physical and psychological symptoms.

Grants are therefore used, for example, for salaries of psychiatrists, psychologists and other types of mental health professionals, medicines, referral to specialists, interpretation costs, preparation and submission of expert reports for tribunals.

Social assistance, includes, vocational training, material assistance for basic needs, such as accommodation, food, clothes and utilities, etc. on the basis of needs and vulnerability. Organisations are required to establish a transparent mechanism for the provision of social assistance and effective monitoring procedures.

The social assistance complements the above-mentioned forms of assistance by providing various services to reduce the sense of marginalization that many victims experience. Due to the disproportionate number of persons with physical and/or mental disabilities among the torture survivors population, social assistance ensures that victims have access to a minimum of basic services, including housing, health care, education, language classes and employment training.

Legal assistance may be provided in a number of ways. For torture victims seeking asylum, legal assistance can be crucial in the preparation and follow-up of asylum applications in a host country. The Fund also contributes to combating impunity. Grants are used to seek reparation and compensation for victims through claims before competent national, regional and international bodies.

Legal aid supported by the Fund include, inter alia:

  • Litigation of torture cases, filing complaints against alleged perpetrators in order to seek prosecution and/or obtain redress, including compensation for torture victims;
  • Defence of torture victims in criminal cases brought against them (for example in cases where a confession extracted with torture lead to self-incrimination);
  • Legal assistance and counselling on medical, social, economical of family issues. For example, issues such as family reunification applications, accessing housing, obtaining medical or social benefits, obtaining work and residence permits;
  • Legal assistance to victims of torture who are asylum seekers or internally displaced, in asylum and/ or non refoulement procedures;
  • Legal assistance to family members of enforced or involuntary disappearances (Habeas Corpus cases, obtaining remains or ordering autopsy, documentation of disappearance, litigation to obtain death certificates to solve inheritance issues.
  • Indirect legal assistance such as referrals to pro-bono lawyers;
  • Documentation of torture, for future prosecution of perpetrators.

Grants are therefore used for, inter alia, lawyers’ fees, transportation of lawyers, victims and experts, expertise by forensic and ballistic experts, interpretation, printing of documents, additional investigation costs, court and legal fees and prison visits.

Financial assistance enables victims to meet their basic needs and to gain access to other types of assistance, such as health care. In some cases, nominal assistance is distributed to unemployed victims, particularly when they are unable to work as a result of the serious physical and psychological effects of torture. Financial assistance may also be used to offset the costs of educating their children.

View examples of projects funded (PDF)

To see and read stories from projects supported by the Fund click here.

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The Fund today

The Board of Trustees, during its 52nd Session in October 2020, has reviewed 254 annual grant applications for year 2021 (238 for direct assistance and 16 for training & seminar) aimed at providing direct assistance to victims of torture and their family members as well as capacity building activities for Organisations and other professionals providing direct assistance to victims of torture.

The Board of Trustee has awarded 172 grants to be implemented between January and December 2021 for a total of USD 7,184,000. Six capacity-building grants were awarded. The Fund allocated an additional USD 720,000 to award emergency grants on as-needed-basis throughout the year.

Monitoring and administration of the Fund

The Secretariat of the UN Torture Fund has a sophisticated monitoring and evaluation methodology to ensure the accountability on the use of grant.

As a rule all new applicants are visited before any application is presented to the Board of Trustees for its consideration. Evaluation reports are prepared, with details on the type of assistance to be provided, notes on the meetings with staff and victims and a description of existing internal financial procedures and management.

Field visits are conducted by the staff of the Secretariat of the UN Slavery Fund, Board members and OHCHR Field Presences staff. A monitoring and evaluation manual, with details on how to conduct an evaluation, has been developed for this purpose. For 2021, due to COVID-19 implications, the Fund opted for online evaluation meetings for first-time applicants. A total of 14 online meetings were conducted.

Information on results of the visits can be shared, as appropriate, with other Institutional Donors to projects co-funded by the UNVTFCFS.

The Grant Cycle