Painting: William Caxton 1851 / Wikimedia

Archived News

30 January 2016

We Can’t Let our Fear Dim the Beacon of Hope we Project to the World

By Dr. Lin Piwowarczyk

The American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015, blocked on 20 January by the Senate, would have required screening of all potential incoming refugees from Syria and Iraq by the Department of Homeland Security, the national intelligence director, and the FBI.

As the world faces the largest number of displaced people since World War II, would Iraq and Syria have been the first of forbidden nations? We cannot let fear affect our own humanity by closing our doors to people in great need who would prefer nothing else than to stay at home if it were safe to do so.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the processing of refugees abroad has become more robust in an effort to screen out individuals who could place the country in danger. Our willingness as a nation to take in people from other countries makes us a beacon of hope around the world, and one to be emulated. Yet we must also remember that it is their contribution after they have arrived that has made our country great.

To divvy opportunity along ideological, sociopolitical, or religious lines is divisive. Our best defense is to create a civil society in which all people feel invested in the betterment not only of their own lives but of the communities in which they live.

Dr. Lin Piwowarczyk is the director of the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights and the current NCTTP President. This letter was originally published in the Boston Globe on 22 Januray 2016.

4 December 2015

New Report Sheds Light on Torture Survivors Living in the U.S., Documents
Torture in 125 Countries

In the midst of the United States and other nations facing historic decisions about how to help and care for a flood refugees fleeing conflict and violence around the world, a paper authored by 23 centers of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs paints a nuanced portrait of 9,025 torture survivors living in the United States many of whom are refugees or asylum seekers. This paper documents torture in 125 countries.

The report’s findings are drawn from the largest collection of data compiled and published about torture survivors across a single country...

Continue Reading

14 May 2015

8,000 Migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar Stranded at Sea

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), as many as 8,000 migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar are believed to be stranded at sea. Most are Rohingya Muslims who cannot go back to Myanmar, also known as Burma, where they are not recognised as citizens of the country and are regularly persecuted... Read the entire story from the BBC.

10 December 2014

Today is Universal Human Rights Day

Today and every day, the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations following World War II are important to contemplate. Specific to torture:

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 

- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5

Visit the following websites for additional information:

13 November 2014

Advocacy Continues, US Responds to Questions from Committee

NCTTP Executive Committee members, Lin Piwowarczyk, Mary Lynn Everson, and Cris Riley, met with staff of UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Toture. Cris Riley, along with other advocacy working group representatives, met with staff of the Special Rapporteurs on Torture, Violence Against Women, and Counter-Terrorism. Discussed future plans, how to network, and possible ideas for working together going forward.

The US Responded to the Committee' questions. Described current U.S. operations in various areas.


12 November 2014

Advocacy by Civil Society Adds Questions for US from UN Committee on Torture

Increased funding for rehabilitation for torture survivors was encouraged in questions presented to the US Government Delegation by a Rapporteur from the UN Committee Against Torture. This was noted as a good public health investment, preventing overuse of health care services and enhancing of later life productivity. Issues of access, availability, standards of care, monitoring and evaluation were also raised.

Capacity within the US does not match the need. 

- A UN Committee Against Torture member

November 11 was filled with advocacy, as the US Human Rights Network’s many working groups made final preparations and then delivered their messages, first to the UN CAT Committee and then later in the day to the U.S. Government Delegation.

NCTTP President Lin Piwowarczyk (center) speaks
before the U.S. delegation in Geneva.

On Tuesday, as chair of the US Human Rights Network's Right to Rehabilitation working group, Melina Milazzo (CVT) presented information from the NCTTP's shadow report, along with information related to rehabilitation for other groups who have suffered torture, such as Guantanamo detainees. NCTTP's Executive Committee members, Lin Piwowarczyk, Cris Riley, and Mary Lynn Everson, had collaborated on writing the presentation. Working with IRCT staff Asger Kjaerum, NCTTP shared ideas about how to present our issues to the Committee on Torture. On other issues, moving testimonials were made from many direct survivors, including the parents of Michael Brown (Ferguson, MO).

In front of the U.S. Government Delegation, NCTTP President Lin Piwowarczyk spoke to the Right of Rehabilitation through the lens of a case. Representatives from many other working groups also presented on their issues.

As a representative of NCTTP, Mary Lynn Everson attended a dinner with members of the U.S. Government Delegation and representatives of the Human Rights Network at the home of U.S. Ambassador Keith Harper.

11 November 2014

United States' Commitment to UN Convention Against Torture Under Review this Month in Geneva

During the month of November 2014, the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) Committee will review nine countries related to these countries' commitment to the Convention Against Torture. These reviews are part of periodic reviews of countries conducted by the UNCAT Committee. On the schedule for review this week is the USA.

Three members of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs (NCTTP) are in Geneva this week to participate in Civil Society Consultations and meetings with the USA Government delegation and with CAT Committee members.

Activities related to the USA's review include:

Tuesday, November 11

  • Formal Consideration of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) - reading of oral advocacy documents
  • Informal Civil Society Consultations with invited CAT Committee members
  • USA Government Civil Society Consultation with NGOs

Wednesday, November 12

  • Consideration of USA
  • Civil Society Debrief

Thursday, November 13

  • Replies of the USA Government to the CAT Committee
  • Civil Society Debrief

The UN CAT Committee's process of review of countries (referred to as "states") entails the "states" answering questions posed by the UNCAT Committee. NGOs from the ''state" can then have access to the state's / the U.S. government's responses, and write their own "shadow report". The NCTTP's shadow report and oral and written reports delivered in person at the UNCAT review this week make a strong case for increased funding ensure the "Right to Rehabilitation for torture survivors living in the U.S. To read the NCTTP Shadow Report please click here.

Shadow reports were submitted by NGOs in writing to the UN CAT committee in mid September. Oral advocacy reports are being heard this week during the UN CAT proceedings. A record number of 70 individuals from US NGOs are in Geneva this week to present their oral advocacy statements. A larger than usual US government delegation will hear these on Wednesday November 11. The same day, in a separate session, the CAT Committee will hear NGO oral advocacy statements.

The United States is a leader in supporting rehabilitation services for survivors of torture at the hands of foreign governments. However, government funding for U.S. based torture treatment centers remains stagnant and insufficient to meet both the need and the demand for rehabilitative services for the estimated one million torture survivors from at least 125 countries now living in the U.S. Many torture treatment centers have closed, and many others are limited in the services they can provide due to limited resources. Comprehensive rehabilitation, including psychological and medical treatment, social and legal services does not reach the vast majority of torture survivors in the US. The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, which is one of the only other source of financial support for organizations providing such services, remains severely underfunded.

The NCTTP website will post information from each day's activities, as well as links to other information related to the review process.

NCTTP to Focus on Growth in 2014

The NCTTP has recently placed very strong emphases on growth of the organization to increase the impact of its services across the domains of treatment, education, advocacy, research and sustainability related to torture survivors in the U.S. The creating of the NCTTP’s new website is an important step in this process, as it enables us to conceptualize, share, and interact with you in an expanded manner about these important components of our work with torture survivors - Treatment, Education, Advocacy, Research and Sustainability (TEARS).

The nine members of the NCTTP Executive Committee began to think seriously about growth of the NCTTP in 2013. Discussions helped us to conceptualize, visualize, and expand our ideas on what might be possible for our Consortium to do. In October 2013, members of the NCTTP Executive Committee, along with members of the NCTTP’s Research and Data Sub Committee, met in Portland, Oregon for a weekend conference with Dr. Robert Lemelson and three experts from various areas of psychiatry – James Griffith, M.D., psychiatric treatment & education; Lawrence Kirmayer, M.D., cultural psychiatry, and Douglas Bremner, M.D., research in clinical neuroscience. The conference was hosted by the Intercultural Psychiatric Program at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR, and funded by the Robert Lemelson Foundation, Portland.

Children on the Border

The current crisis of Children on the Border is very close to NCTTP's work with refugees, children, their parents — many of whom have likely been tortured.

To help us understand and keep posted on what's happening currently with the Children, here we share links to organizations which are very involved with possible solutions related to the Children on the Border.

Refugee Council USA is urging members of Congress to end cuts to refugee services and help unaccompanied children:

NCTTP Welcomes New Members

NCTTP officially welcomed three new member programs at the NCTTP’s Annual Meeting in March. These are (in alphabetical order) the International Institute of Connecticut in Bridgeport, CT; the Nationalities Service Center in Philadelphia, PA, and the New England Survivors of Torture and Trauma in Burlington, VT. During the next few months we will be featuring stories on these new programs, along with stories about our longer established programs to help you get to know NCTTP member centers. Right now, you can find more information about these other NCTTP centers on our Member Centers Page

NCTTP's Data: Torture a Public Health Problem

Data we collect as a consortium shows torture is public health problem. Survivors of torture from over 125 countries have recently or are currently receiving treatment services in NCTTP centers. Most of the survivors have serious psychiatric diagnoses, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and physical health issues as well. In health literature there is growing evidence of a connection between PTSD and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and possibly dementia.

Read more about NCTTP Research & Data Collection

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