Torture & Trauma

Background

Despite the international efforts to maintain human rights standards, state-organized persecution and systematic torture are increasing worldwide, as are the number of severely traumatized civilians, due civil and international wars.

Terror regimes and violent conflicts result in floods of refugees who have been persecuted or threatened, who mostly flee to neighbouring countries. Only a few of these persons manage to reach countries of exile in Europe, as well as North America and Australia.

Torture is a crime committed by humans against other humans, and is one of the most horrific forms of deliberate and systematic violations against a person. An individual is forced into a situation of extreme helplessness and physical exposure. Torture aims to cause great damage by invading and corrupting the personality structure of a person as well as their social relationships through a process of humiliation and degradation.

Systematic torture always involves the combination of physical and psychological forms of torture. Victims are caused unbearable pain with the aim of affecting the psyche in order to open it up to suggestions, existential threats, over- or understimulation, and other agonizing forms of psychological injury. Culture-specific forms of humiliation and degradation are regularly used that are particularly taboo or dishonorable, e.g. sexualized violence and torture of women from societies characterized by traditionalist or Muslim values.

The aim of "modern" torture is to deliberately cause injury or to completely destroy the personality of the victim. Whilst the victim should remain biologically alive (and visible signs of torture should be avoided), the resulting psychological damage should serve as a deterrent for opposition movements, revolutionary groups and dissenters.

When victims of torture die during this ordeal, they are reported to have "disappeared", to both the general public and their relatives. This allows government agencies and state organs, as well as those perpetrators who are directly responsible, to avoid being made accountable for their actions. This results in the calculated, deliberate and ongoing psychological suffering for the surviving family members, and those who continue to search for the missing, who are denied the right to bury and mourn the dead.