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Collaborating with medical experts on torture investigations

Graphic: Medical attention

Investigators from NHRIs across the Asia Pacific will seek to work more closely with medical experts to investigate allegations of torture.

Investigators from national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in the Asia Pacific will seek to work more closely with medical experts to investigate allegations of torture, following a regional training workshop for staff from APF member institutions.

The workshop, held in Manila from 20-24 April 2015, brought together 23 representatives from 18 national human rights institutions (NHRIs) from across the region.

It was jointly organised by the APF, the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) and the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP).

The CHRP was invited to host the workshop given its long experience with the forensic investigation of human rights violations.

The training was led by experienced legal and medical investigative experts, namely Matthew Sands (APT Legal Adviser), James Lin (IRCT Senior Legal Advisor and Istanbul Protocol Coordinator), Dr Hernan Reyes (medical forensic expert) and Dr Yvonne Entico (psychologist expert).

Dr Joseph Andrew Jimenez, the CHRP's Forensic Chief Officer, also gave a presentation on their investigative work, including on the 'Wheel of Torture' case.

A key goal of the week-long program was to foster greater understanding of the Istanbul Protocol and the concepts of physical and psychological injury and harm, in order to support human rights investigators in their work of investigating and documenting allegations of torture.

The workshop – which built on four weeks of online learning (16 March-10 April 2015) – also sought to strengthen the work of investigators to conduct interviews.

"The workshop emphasised the enormous value that can come from collaborating with medical professionals, as well as the practical ways they can use medical evidence in their investigations," said APF Regional Training Manager Suraina Pasha.

"This is the key point that most participants said they would take back to their respective NHRIs and apply to their important work to support victims of torture," she said.

The blended-learning course materials drew heavily on Preventing Torture: An Operational Guide for National Human Rights Institutions, published in 2010 by the APF, APT and OHCHR, and Istanbul Protocol-related materials published by the IRCT.

This blended learning course is part of a three-year series of activities funded by the European Union to strengthen the capacity of NHRIs in the Asia Pacific region to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Other activities this year include the Torture Prevention Ambassadors project, as well as a training program on migrants in detention.

Date: 12 May 2015

Image credits

  1. Medical attention - APF, Michael Power