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Investigation and Certification of Victims of Torture by METAdrasi: An action for thousands of victims of torture seeking protection in Europe.

Imprisonment in inhumane conditions, extreme tactics of physical abuse, rape, everyday psychological violence. In many countries around the world, types of hard and humiliating treatment, inconceivable to us, are still a part of assertion of dominance, intimidation, and punishment. Amongst the refugees that reach Greece, a large percentage are victims of torture, however, they often constitute “invisible” faces of the vulnerable refugee population.

METAdrasi, a civil society organization, has undertaken the task of identification and certification of victims of torture, since September 2011, covering the gap in Greece after the suspension of operation of the “Medical Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims” (MRCT). The interdisciplinary team of METAdrasi (social worker, doctor, psychologist, legal expert), which is comprised of former members of MRCT, with 25 years of experience in the field, but also new specialized scientists with experience in the field, follows the thorough process of investigation and certification of victims of torture, as defined by the Istanbul Protocol*.

Since August 2017, with the containment of thousands of people, primarily on the islands of the northern Aegean, in the harsh living conditions of the hotspots, it became a crucial necessity to investigate and certificate victims of torture locally. For this reason, within the same month and with the support of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, METAdrasi started missions of the experts’ team to the islands of the northern Aegean. Two missions have already been completed on Chios and Lesvos, while the next ones with take place in Samos and Leros, with the ultimate goal of identifying potential victims of torture on a monthly basis.

The biggest percentage of cases on the islands are from Syria, but also from countries such as Sudan, Congo, Afghanistan, Iran. Few among us are aware of the horrible torture to which many refugees have been subjected and that the Syrians are not just “war refugees”. These people bear obvious signs of torture in body and soul and each and every one of them has their own story to tell; a story of violence and abuse of power.

“Often, in Syria, arrest by state police is followed by arrest by all kinds of paramilitary forces, with the goal of recruiting the victim to one of the opposing groups that are active in the midst of war-conflicts. The motto is “with us or dead” and many times we come in contact with people who have experienced 3 or 4 consecutive arrests, from different torturers each time, because the victims did not want to fight or become torturers themselves”, say members of METAdrasi’s interdisciplinary team.

In the case of Mustafa**, he himself was lucky, unlike his brother. Mustafa managed to escape his torturers. A few days later, however, he found his brother’s body in a sack, in the yard of their family home.

Up to this day, more than 650 people have been supported by METAdrasi, most of whom upon reference by competent public authorities or other organizations. 650 stories of violence and hope…

* The Istanbul Protocol (IP) (Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment) is the United Nations standard for training in the assessment of persons who allege torture and ill treatment, for investigating cases of alleged torture, and for reporting such findings to the judiciary and any other investigative body. For years, certificates issued under the IP are used by international courts as indisputable evidence of torture (European Court of Human Rights – Strasbourg, International Criminal Court, The Hague International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda).

**The name has been changed for the protection of the beneficiary’s personal data

Photography: Rahmat Ahmadi