Multidisciplinary Thailand Program Addresses Torture

The workshops will enhance the participants’ ability to assist torture victims and to document psychological injuries more effectively.

The workshops will enhance the participants’ ability to assist torture victims and to document psychological injuries more effectively.

May 2011

The ability to present evidence of psychological injury can form a key component of torture documentation, torture prevention and a victim’s claim for reparations. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) program in Thailand trains lawyers and human rights advocates to work more effectively with survivors of torture and to document evidence of psychological injury.

ABA ROLI, in collaboration with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), developed a unique fact-finding tool to better document evidence of torture. Through a series of questions, the tool helps lawyers and human rights defenders record information about a victim’s psychological injuries. Such information is critical in the absence of independent medical evaluations.

ABA ROLI’s Thailand program held several events and workshops to train lawyers and other stakeholders on the tool’s use. In late February, ABA ROLI and PHR jointly conducted a two-day interdisciplinary workshop for Thai advocates. The workshop introduced participants to the scientific nature of psychological injuries and their documentation. It also trained participants on how to interview traumatized victims properly and how to introduce evidence of psychological injury in court. The training was attended by 34 participants from various legal human rights institutions, as well as mental health and medical professionals from hospitals, academic institutions and government centers.

ABA ROLI and PHR also held a corresponding forum in Bangkok that gathered government officials, including representatives from the Ministry of Justice, to discuss how Thailand might better address the significant psychological injuries of victims in court and avenues for the provision of reparations to those victims. In March, ABA ROLI hosted two roundtables for legal advocates. At these workshops, Thai legal advocates and medical experts from the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims used case studies to explore the nature of significant psychological injuries—including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression—and how to present those in court.

Currently, ABA ROLI is the sole organization in Thailand training lawyers on how to represent victims who may have significant psychological trauma and how to present evidence of psychological evidence in courts. In addition to creating the fact-finding tool and training lawyers on how to present psychological evidence, ABA ROLI has been drafting a case law reference guide on the psychological impacts of human rights abuses. Later this summer, the guide will be used to further the understanding and skills of legal advocates in presenting evidence of psychological injury.

To learn more about our work in Thailand, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org

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