June 26 marks the United Nations’ International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This year, our Amhara Program Office of CVT Ethiopia showed solidarity and support for survivors by commemorating this day at the Alemwach Refugee site in Dabat.
For CVT, the objective for this day was to raise awareness about the prevalence of torture and to rally support for the victims, all to establish torture as a crime against humanity. Because the victims in these situations are often swept aside, this day is dedicated to them.
Because the victims in these situations are often swept aside, this day is dedicated to them.”
June 26 illuminates the necessary steps that we, as a society, can and should take to eliminate the use of torture and the ways in which we can support the victims of these heinous crimes.
The CVT Ethiopia-Amhara team started the planning on June 5, preparing a number of activities for the June 26 commemoration. Below is a recap of the events, including our engagements with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Refugees and Returnees Services (RRS), other partners and the refugee community.
“Preventing Torture and Supporting Victims: Reality and Challenges”
On Thursday, June 22, the team conducted a panel discussion entitled “Preventing Torture and Supporting Victims: Reality and Challenges” at the CVT Amhara-Dabat Healing and Training Center. Over 50 people participated, including refugee representatives, partner agencies, local government representatives, UN agencies and officials from the Refugee and Returnees services.
The panel discussion began with a welcome from Alemu Lemma, CVT zonal manager, an opening speech delivered by Melkamu, the Refugee and Returns Services’ (RRS) Alemwach site health and nutrition coordinator, and a keynote delivered by Joseph Wesonga, CVT physiotherapist/trainer.
Wesonga delivered a powerful keynote speech highlighting the significance of this day and the importance of supporting victims of torture and trauma. By providing a comprehensive overview of the challenges faced by survivors, the team discussed the role that mental health professionals can play in their rehabilitation and healing process. Valuable insights were presented, including the:
Following this overview, there was a panel discussion where attendees actively participated, sharing their experiences and perspectives on the challenges faced by torture survivors, the role of different stakeholders in providing support and rehabilitation and the need for increased awareness and advocacy.
On the official day of commemoration, our day began at 8:30 am with a march from the CVT Center at Alemwach to the Innovative Humanitarian Solutions (IHS) Child Friendly Space. Participants included refugees, national and refugee staff, among many others, all chanting different supportive mottos like “HOPE – Hold On Pain Ends” & “There is Help, There is Hope”.
To formally launch the day’s events, religious leaders and RRS representatives sliced the first loaf of bread.
The team shared a message from Dr. Simon Adams, CVT president and CEO, about the importance of the day, leading to an inaugural speech from the CVT zonal manager and a Q&A session on mental health counseling and physiotherapy at CVT.
This info-heavy portion of the day was followed with art and music. Refugee advocates offered a poem with a strong and essential message, a traditional dance from more than nine Eritrean nations was performed, and a community-based cultural band enacted an informative and thrilling drama.
Donation of Resources to Dabat Primary Hospital & the Refugee Central Committee
On June 22, CVT made a material support donation to the Dabat Primary Hospital through RRS. The hospital serves both refugee and host communities at its one-stop center, which provides necessary resources and support to victims of torture, and we hope CVT’s contribution greatly assists in the ongoing work of this center. On June 26, CVT Amhara also donated to the Refugee Central Committee (RCC). The tools provided are critical for RCC to successfully and efficiently carry out their daily operations and improve service delivery for all refugee communities, with particular attention to torture and trauma survivors.
Following the donations, closing remarks and the thanks were given by RRS, RCC and the UNHCR mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) representative.
Why do we commemorate this day?
A lot of work went into these two days of events, and we believe it was worth that effort. We observe United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture to promote three main ideas:
Inflicting torture upon a human being by an authority is a violation of human rights regardless of the circumstances. An attack on human rights deserves the highest condemnation, and it is beneath the civilized society to strip a person of their humanity.
We believe that our standardized mental health counselling and physiotherapy services allow survivors to be resilient and reclaim their dignity, as well as their right to live in a torture-free environment.
While torture reveals the worst of humankind, the collective support for the victims rekindles our faith in humanity. On this day, hundreds of individuals from all corners of the refugee site rally together to raise awareness about this heinous crime and pledge their support toward the victims.
Torture is an outdated practice of uncivilized times that cannot be brought into civilized society. CVTs commitment is not only to host gatherings in support of the victims of torture but also to unmask torture as being an ineffective and inept way of treating people.
The day’s events were closed by Lynn Karanja, the UNHCR associate MHPSS officer delivering a speech, expressing her gratitude to CVT for organizing such an important event and commending our team for the remarkable work being done in the Alemwach refugee site.
We’re proud to have been successful in gathering individuals who are dedicated to supporting survivors, and we hope this work continues to bring us closer to our goal of a world without violence and torture.