Role of Forensic and Medical Sciences in the Investigation and Prevention of Torture

6365386329_f24a5e7976_zMendez discussed his report on the use of forensic science to combat torture, as it still persists in over 100 countries. Ms. Reventlow, Denmark, Switzerland, and Mendez, believe it’s the state’s obligation to prevent and investigate torture through medical/forensic examination. Denmark and Switzerland feel it’s essential to establish a standard for legal investigations. Denmark and Mendez also believe victims should be given rehabilitation and reparations.

Switzerland deems the eradication of torture a matter of political will and insufficient resources. Another cause maybe the lack of medical and forensic personnel training, which prevents proper documentation of torture cases. It is also pointed out that torture investigations must follow the Istanbul Protocol because it analyzes the physical and psychological effects of torture. Doctors, lawyers, judges, and prosecutors must become educated in this Protocol. A significant type of torture comes from interrogators trying to coerce a confession. This causes official medical examiners to be influenced by the department inflicting the torture.

Mendez insists on implementing safeguards to ensure that examinations are credible, independent, and objective. Some states may reject the Istanbul Protocol because they claim they are too poor, but Mendez and Hansen point out these examinations are not expensive. Rodley explains how forensic evidence can greatly affect the outcome of a torture case. He also mentions that victims of torture may face deportation because officials do not want to deal with these “undesirables”.

Hansen explains his work with the Protocol and its legal implications. He strongly recommends the use of the Protocol, and explains that the major aspect of forensic examinations lies in consistency. Finally, Hansen mentions that time does not affect the significance of forensic examinations. The conference concluded with the need to establish a framework to deal with torture cases, and the need to raise awareness of the issue.

Meeting: The Role of Forensic and Medical Sciences in the Investigation and Prevention of Torture and Other Ill-Treatment (co-organization by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Permanent Missions of Denmark and Switzerland, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (ICRT), Amnesty International and the American University Washington College of Law Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law’s Anti-Torture Initiative)
Date/Location: October 22nd, 2014; Conference Room 7, UN HQ, New York.
Speakers: Switzerland, Denmark, Chairman of the Human Rights Committee Sir Nigel Rodley, Director of IRCT’s legal and advocacy team Ms. Miriam Reventlow, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez, and Dr. Steen Holger Hansen from the University of Copenhagen’s forensic medicine department.
Written By WIT Representative: Ellie Guner
Edited by WIT Representative: Aslesha Dhillon

Humanitarian Crises in Colombia and Myanmar

Rakhine camp._(8288488088)Today in the Trusteeship Council a meeting was convened on the humanitarian crises in Colombia and Myanmar. Beginning the meeting, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ms. Kang, gave a briefing on the situation in Colombia, which continues to be grave as the country faces various humanitarian challenges including natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, as well as widespread violence from armed conflict. Currently, there are over 5.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Colombia, with the biggest threats to human security coming from violence against women, the recruitment of child soldiers, and the use of land mines. She pointed out the importance of humanitarian relief funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), but urged donors to do more in supporting Colombia’s humanitarian needs.

Next, Mr. Hochschild, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Colombia, gave a statement about how decreases in poverty in Colombia have not been matched by decreases in inequality. He pointed out the three main dimensions of inequality that persist in Colombia, which are gender inequality, ethnic inequality, and geographic inequality. This inequality combined with ongoing conflict is only making the humanitarian situation in Colombia worse. Following, the Permanent Representative of Colombia spoke about how Colombia must overcome conflict in a sustainable way, so victims and survivors are at the center of the post conflict resolution process. She called for the support of the UN, and pointed out how war is a significant driver of poverty, and every opportunity needs to be taken to promote peace.

Next, Ms. Kang then gave a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Myanmar, where thousands of people in Rakhine and Kachin states continue to rely on humanitarian aid, and are so far unable to rebuild their lives due to conflict. The IDP camps are in terrible condition, severely restrict freedom of movement, and seriously lack access to adequate health care, water, and jobs. Myanmar also suffers from regular earthquakes, floods, and cyclones, which contribute to the deteriorating humanitarian situation. Concluding the meeting, the Permanent Representative of Myanmar spoke about the trust deficit that exists between the government and the donor community. He called for a human rights based approach to humanitarian aid, and an improvement of relations between Myanmar’s government and UN organizations/NGOs.


Meeting Title: “The Humanitarian Situation in Colombia and Myanmar” (Organized by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA))
Speakers: Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator; Mr. Fabrizio Hochschild, UN Resident and Coordinator for Colombia; H.E. Ms. Maria Emma Mejia Velez, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the UN; Mr. Kyaw, Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the UN
Date: 18 June 2014
Location: Trusteeship Council, United Nations HQ, New York
Written by WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan