Open Wounds: Healing Torture Victims from Syria

Yusuf is receiving treatment in a torture rehabilitation centre in Northern Lebanon. He was held captive and subjected to electric shock in Syria for allegedly taking part in protests.

“I was injected with some kind of substance so I stopped seeing… They laid me on a table and forced me to confess, repeatedly asking me ‘who told you to protest, who told you to come out to the streets?’” said Yusuf.

“I told them as much as I could, but I felt I had to say anything to escape torture,” he said.

Torture across Syria by Government forces and some armed opposition groups is rampant, said UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay, during a press conference in April.

“In armed conflict, torture constitutes a war crime. When it is used in a systematic or widespread manner… it also amounts to a crime against humanity,” she said.

According to a report by the UN Human Rights Office, men, women and children have been routinely picked up from the street, their homes and workplaces, or arrested at Government-manned checkpoints. Many are activists – often students – as well as lawyers, medical personnel and humanitarian workers, and some just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, the report states.

In another case, Abu Yazan was held in detention accused of being a terrorist.

“They inflicted electric shocks to my sexual parts and to my chest,” he said, adding that the worst part was living in a cell totally naked with about 64 men.

Today, both Yusuf and Abu Yazan are receiving rehabilitation services, including psychotherapy, as well as legal and social support at NGO Restart Center in Tripoli, which is one of many centers supported by the UN Fund for Victims of Torture across the world. In Lebanon, the Fund also supports the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH), which provides vital services to victims of torture, including from Syria.

In 2013, the UN Fund for Victims of Torture enabled the Restart Center to provide specialized assistance to 180 victims of torture from Syria and it hopes to reach at least an additional 150 this year.

“The UN Fund for Victims of Torture is a practical tool of the UN Human Rights Office to support torture victims in need of rehabilitation and assistance. The Fund responds, both rapidly and in the long term, to the plight of thousands of victims who would otherwise remain unattended and marginalized,” said Pillay.

Since its establishment by the General Assembly in 1981, the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, managed by the UN Human Rights Office, has awarded grants to more than 600 organizations, providing rehabilitation to more than 50,000 victims and their families worldwide every year.

The UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is marked annually on 26 June to speak out against the crime of torture and to honour and support victims and survivors around the world.

Names were changed to protect the victims.

 25 June 2014


See also