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Building new partnerships for effective investigations

Graphic: Participants take part in a workshop activity

The value of working in partnership with doctors and psychologists to investigate allegations of torture was a key theme of a recent APF workshop.

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The value of working in partnership with doctors and psychologists to thoroughly investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment was a key theme of a recent APF training workshop.

Held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 6-10 June 2016, the workshop brought together 18 participants representing APF member institutions from across the Asia Pacific.

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 to investigate and document allegations of torture.

The skills-based workshop – which followed on four weeks of online learning (25 April-20 May 2016) – also sought to strengthen the work of investigators to conduct interviews.

Discussions explored the physical and psychological impacts of torture and how this can greatly influence the interviewing process and the manner in which victims remember and tell their story.

Participants took part in a series of role plays, which encouraged them to reflect on key principles of the Istanbul Protocol in order to respond appropriately to the needs of victims.

They also worked in teams to review mock case files, which included forensic evidence, psychological assessments and other data – along with 'information gaps' and mistakes – and identify how they would approach an investigation.

Graphic: Participants and trainers at the conclusion of the workshop

The training was led by experienced legal and medical investigative experts: Önder Özkalıpcı, forensic physician and co-author of the Istanbul Protocol; Lela Tsiskarishvili, Executive Director of the Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims; and Matthew Sands, Legal Adviser with the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT).

"The workshop emphasised the enormous value that can come from collaborating with medical professionals, as well as the practical ways that national human rights institutions can use medical evidence and reports in their investigations," said APF Regional Training Manager Kate Tuner-Mann.

"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.

As part of the workshop, each participant developed a personal action plan to describe how they would share the knowledge and skills developed at the workshop with colleagues in their respective NHRIs.

The workshop was jointly organised by the APF, the APT and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), and hosted by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia.


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This training program was 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 include the innovative Torture Prevention Ambassadors project.


Image credits

  1. Participants take part in a workshop activity - APF
  2. Participants and trainers at the conclusion of the workshop - APF
  3. European Union logo - EU