PRESS RELEASE 19/12/2022
“Hope and Memory: Identification and Certification of Victims of Torture”
Giving voice to the “invisible” face of the vulnerable refugee population
METAdrasi’s event entitled “Hope and Memory: Identification and Certification of Victims of Torture” was successfully held on Friday 16 December 2022, at the amphitheater of the Benaki Museum. The event was addressed by the Ambassador of Norway to Greece and Cyprus, Lajla Brandt Jakhelln, the Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Greece, Maria Clara Martin, the Governor of the Asylum Service, Marios Kaleas, as well as by the President of the Bodossaki Foundation, Athena Desypri.
Marking the beginning of the event, METAdrasi’s President, Lοra Pappa, thanked the countries of the European Economic Area and the Bodossaki Foundation, proceeding to point out a particularity of the Identification and Certification of Victims of Torture Programme: that it is a shining example of constructive cooperation between Civil Society organisations and the State.
According to statistics of the UNHCR, within refugee flows, the percentage of torture victims worldwide ranges from 5-35%. In this context, the Ambassador of Norway noted that “the right to freedom from torture is an absolute and fundamental human right. And no efforts should be spared in ensuring that protection is granted to the victims of torture.”
For her part, the President of the Bodossaki Foundation, Athina Desypri, thanked METAdrasi for the cooperation and spoke of a thorough project that facilitates the recognition of the contribution of Civil Society.
The event marked the completion of the “Hope and Memory: Identification and Certification of Victims of Torture” programme, for the period 2021-2022, within the framework of the Active citizens fund in Greece programme. The main objective of the programme was to strengthen the protection of victims of torture through three complementary actions:
- Certification of victims of torture (in this period, 349 certifications were issued out of the 665 referrals made in total to METAdrasi),
- Training mainly of staff of the Asylum Service and the Reception and Identification Service, with the implementation of four two-day seminars joined by 246 participants,
- And awareness-raising, information and advocacy for the protection of survivors’ rights.
As part of the public awareness actions, the first screening of the documentary created by METAdrasi, “Voice in the Shadows”, took place during the event. The documentary “gave a voice” to the victims of torture themselves, the shocking testimonies of whom conveyed to the public memories of visible and invisible, physical and mental traumas, but also the hope for a decent life, with respect to human rights.
The screening was followed by a round table discussion moderated by the President of the Greek National Commission of Human Rights, Maria Gavouneli. The Secretary General of Reception of Asylum Seekers, Manos Logothetis, presented proposals for the optimal reception of asylum seekers and particularly of victims of torture, while Mr. Kaleas stressed the impact of various difficulties on the examination of asylum applications by the above-mentioned vulnerable group. However, all speakers agreed that in practice, until today, public hospitals are not able to implement the law on the issuance of certificates to victims of torture (Article 25 of Directive 2013/33/EU), confirming the results of a survey conducted by METAdrasi in 89 Greek public hospitals and published in the relevant Advocacy Report.
With this in mind, Ioanna Babassika, lawyer of METAdrasi, and Thodoris Zeis, lawyer of SolidarityNow, recommended, as is the case in other European countries, ensuring by law the partnership with Civil Society organizations composed of experienced, independent interdisciplinary teams, in order to comply with the requirements and conditions set by the Istanbul Protocol.
In addition, the latter representatives underlined the crucial importance of independence in the identification and certification procedures, stating that “we stand neither with the refugee nor with the state services. We stand with truth and scientific accuracy.”
Finally, one more point was made about the lack of procedures and structures for the rehabilitation of victims of torture.
METAdrasi is the only organization to which, since 2013, official referrals are made by the Asylum Service and the Reception and Identification Service, in order for its specialized team to examine alleged victims of torture and certify whether they actually meet the criteria.
The certification process is based on and guided by the principles of the “Istanbul Protocol” – a manual on the effective investigation and documentation of torture, as well as of other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
From 2011 to November 2022, 1,814 individuals have been certified by the programme.
The programme “Hope and Memory: Identification and Certification of Victims of Torture” is implemented in the framework of the programme “Active Citizens Fund”, by METAdrasi – Action for Migration and Development.
The Active citizens fund in Greece is supported through a € 13.5m grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as part of the EEA Grants 2014 – 2021. The programme aims to develop the sustainability and capacity of the civil society sector in Greece, and to strengthen its role in promoting and safeguarding democratic procedures, active citizenship and human rights. The Fund Operator for the Active citizens fund in Greece is Bodossaki Foundation in consortium with SolidarityNow. More information: www.activecitizensfund.gr/en/