Written by Hilda Nyatete
IMLU’s work revolves around ensuring that victims of torture and their families receive psychological support both at individual and group level. Working with families of victims of torture and survivors is not an easy task. Having to walk the journey of recounting painful, dehumanizing and degrading memories of torture in the hands of the government invokes a hunger and drive to keep fighting for the rights of those whose dignity and respect is tattered by being subjected to terrible acts of physical and psychological torture.
IMLU has been a member of the IRCT for many years and has carved its niche in Kenya as the pioneer organization supporting victims of torture. We support an average of 500 victims of torture (this includes families who lose their loved ones through extrajudicial executions & enforced disappearances) annually. Out of this 25 % of the registered cases proceed to court. IMLU works with a network of professionals who provide critical documentation of torture and ill-treatment in legal proceedings. These evaluations and subsequent documentation take place in various counties in the country.
The purpose of the medical and psychological evaluation is to provide expert opinion on the degree to which findings correlate with the alleged victim’s allegation of torture and to effectively communicate the clinician’s findings and interpretations to the judiciary or other appropriate authorities. It is therefore key that clinical documentation is done diligently and in a clear and concise manner, to ensure that justice is served. One of the challenges we have constantly had to tackle every so often is that there is a lot of fear and sometimes little (if any) co-operation from victims when reporting cases of torture. This emanates from intimidation (and repercussions of reporting) by perpetrators.
Perpetrators also put forward fabricated charges which pile on to the victims’ fear and anxiety. This, therefore, this means that clients (facing intimidation) often times choose not to follow through with their appointments for statement recording or to complete intake for legal and sometimes psychological support-greatly hampering the process of documentation which plays a critical role in pursuing justice for victims. This has caused us to be very intentional in involving clients throughout the process from intake, during service provision until the client is exited from active medical support and counselling; that way, they understand the critical role their information (which is documented) plays in allowing them to access justice. Having noted the very glaring challenge threats and intimidation pose, as well as how tedious the process of documentation can be, IMLU developed a database system which was officially launched in 2015.
The database system is in such a way that its use goes beyond data entry, to managing individual and group calendars and diaries, that way, those who do not on a daily basis engage with client information/data entry, still, find it useful. The system has been instrumental in generating reports at the click of a button, something which was previously done painstakingly on paper/manually.
Our work in clinical documentation has significantly been made easier. Beyond clinical documentation, our data collection as the leading organization in the sector, in providing national data on extra-Judicial executions has also been exemplarily done through the support of not only staff but also the network of professionals with whom we work. It is obvious that the state has an obligation to document acts of torture and to investigate with a view of prosecuting those responsible. However, the state often fails to independently and consistently do so. It is therefore paramount that IMLU, together with other players in the sector tirelessly endeavour to collect and document data on these critical issues of human rights violations.
Through the support of the IRCT and the Hilton, Coalition IMLU has had numerous opportunities to travel to many countries including South Africa, Mexico, among many others, where we have met colleagues from various organizations, who are also in this area of work and do also collect and collate data on torture and violence. Sharing our experiences and how the data collection systems have and continue to be of great value in not only making work easier but also holding duty bearers to account. We will continue documenting cases of torture violence and discrimination in a bid to contribute to the fight against torture.