Kyiv, Ukraine, 21 July 2023: Dr. Simon Adams, CVT president and CEO, delivered this speech to the Office of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General as he presented the 2023 CVT Eclipse Award to three members of the office in recognition of their outstanding work to investigate torture and war crimes and bring perpetrators to justice.
First of all, I want to thank His Excellency, the Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin, the First Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Khomenko, and everyone who has made this such an extraordinary and inspiring visit.
There is a story from the start of the uprising in Syria, over a decade ago. One of the protestors was arrested and taken to the notorious Branch 251 detention center. This was a place of unspeakable horrors where people were known to be tortured and to disappear. The detainee was told by his captors that “we will take you behind the sun, where even the flies will not know where you are.”
This story resonates beyond the borders of Syria because all brutal regimes that use torture believe in their own power and impunity. They want to plunge the people they torture into both physical and emotional darkness and to rob them of their hope and humanity. Their intention is to ensure that even if a person survives, they remain broken.
The solar eclipse is the symbol of the Center for Victims of Torture. It is our logo because everywhere we have worked in the world we have found torture survivors who described their experience as like being consumed by darkness. They survived, but described how it felt like the light had been drained from their lives. Like they were living in a perpetual solar eclipse.
Over the decades, some survivors described the healing care provided by CVT as being restorative and transformative. It felt like, in their words, they were coming out from behind the sun. And so, every year on 26 June, the UN’s International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we present the Eclipse Award to a person or an organization that has played a crucial role in the struggle to help heal the wounds of torture, to pursue international justice, or to eradicate torture in the world.
Due to the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Office of the Prosecutor General is currently investigating more than 95,000 war crimes cases. This includes over 330 torture cases involving 3,000 torture survivors.
CVT is therefore proud to present the 2023 Eclipse Award to the Office of the Prosecutor General and to these three outstanding prosecutors who are champions of human rights and the rule of law – Spartak Borysenko, Anna Sosonska and Roman Tsyb. CVT recognizes both their outstanding individual commitment and the historic struggle for justice and accountability that you are all collectively a part of.
CVT recognizes both their outstanding individual commitment and the historic struggle for justice and accountability that you are all collectively a part of.”
It is a personal honor for me to be here in Kyiv with these extraordinary Eclipse Award recipients. As I said to Prosecutor General Kostin earlier this week, CVT is here not just because we believe that Ukraine is the frontline of the fight against Russian aggression. Ukraine is also part of the frontline of a global fight to uphold human rights, humanitarianism and international justice. You are fighting for your country, but you are also fighting for all of us. And that is why I say thank you, and slava Ukraini! (Glory to Ukraine!)
Read Ukrainian coverage here of the award ceremony.