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The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture assists thousands of individuals subjected to torture and their family members to rebuild their lives by providing immediate and accessible remedies.

This is achieved by awarding grants to those on the ground providing direct services to torture victims, including civil society organizations, survivor-led associations, rehabilitation centres and public interest law firms.

The provision of assistance to victims of torture is not charity: it is a legal obligation enshrined as an enforceable right under article 14 of the Convention against Torture.

By filling important gaps in State services, the Fund and its grantees contribute to torture victims’ access to the right to redress and rehabilitation.
This is described in Human Rights Council resolution 22/21 on torture rehabilitation (March 2013).

Types of direct assistance

The Fund’s grantees provide many different types of services and priority support is given to supporting projects that provide holistic support to facilitate healing for individuals, their families and communities.

Medical assistance:

Medical services treat the physical impact of torture and help alleviate the symptoms. Following diagnosis by a medical practitioner, services may include conventional treatment, traditional healing and complementary medicine, as well as psychiatry. 
Grants may cover, for example, the costs of doctors’ fees, laboratory tests, ambulances, mobile health clinics, medical expertise for tribunals, medication and surgery.  

Psychological assistance:

  • Psychological services enable victims to overcome the deep trauma of torture and facilitate their reintegration into society. This may include individual, family or group therapy, clinical, psychoanalytical, behavioural, occupational and other approaches, mediation and acupuncture, amongst others.

Grants are used, for instance, to pay for mental health professionals’ fees, referrals to specialists, interpretation costs, preparation for trials and materials for art therapy.

Claire Harel’s painting workshop, Mana association, France

Social assistance:

Social services ensure that victims can meet their basic needs and reduce their sense of marginalization. This may include housing, clothing health care, education, language classes and vocational training.

Grants may be used, for instance, to pay for rent, utilities, food vouchers, school fees, uninforms and materials, as well as salaries of social workers to facilitate access to public services.

Legal assistance:

Legal support can range from the litigation of cases to hold perpetrators of torture to account, filing legal claims to obtain reparation and compensation for victims before national, regional or international tribunals, defence of victims following forced confession under torture, asylum and non-refoulement procedures for those fleeing persecution, amongst others.

Grants may include lawyers and court fees, forensic expertise, printing documents, additional investigation costs, transport to prisons and detention facilities.

Capacity building of grantees:

The Fund also awards grants aimed at strengthening the institutional capacity of organizations to provide the direct assistance services outlined above.

Examples of projects supported by the Fund

Iraq video: Rebuilding lives after torture - Ahmed

Senegal video: Rebuilding lives after torture - Dieynaba

Syria video: Open wounds: Healing torture victims from Syria

Mali video: Assisting women victims of sexual violence in Gao, 2014

Cambodia video: Assisting victims of torture of the former Khmer Rouge Regime during the proceedings at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) (FIDH documentary)