Documents on Terrorism
Testimony of Ann VanDusen, Deputy Assistant Administrator Bureau for Policy and Program Coordination Before the House International Relations Committee Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights; June 29, 1999

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: I appreciate this opportunity to outline the U.S. Agency for International Development's efforts to prevent and control the worldwide problem of torture.

On June 18, the Washington Post carried a front-page picture and story about the cellar of the Pristina, Kosovo, police station, where NATO forces found a bed frame, brass knuckles, knives, wooden batons, heavy metal chains, black ski masks, bloodstains, and other evidence of mass torture carried out by Serb forces before they were forced to flee. Neighbors told of blood curdling screams that arose from the police station and filled them with horror. These stories were a chilling reminder that even today, torture is still very much with us.

In December, we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which prohibits torture and reaffirms the rights of all individuals to life, liberty and security. USAID has recommitted itself to ensuring that U.S. foreign assistance helps to secure all the rights outlined in that declaration. Certainly the concern of both Congress and the Administration were embodied in the Torture Victims Relief Act of 1998, which the President signed last October.

As the President said at that time, "…assisting torture victims does not end the curse of torture. The United States will continue its efforts to shine a spotlight on this horrible practice wherever it occurs, and we will do all we can to bring it to an end."

This weekend, many people gathered in Washington to commemorate the 2nd annual UN International Day in Support of Torture Victims and Survivors. We at USAID strongly support their cause. Many of our programs, especially those in the democracy and human rights area, are directed at preventing torture from occurring in the first place, and others are directed at treatment of its victims.

Our definition of torture is an inclusive one. It includes the man who is beaten or maimed, the woman who is raped for reasons that are in part political and psychological - rape as an instrument of war -- and the child who is forcibly "recruited" for a rebel army by threats and beatings. All of these human beings will need help and understanding in dealing with trauma that lasts far beyond the initial act of violence. For years, USAID has provided assistance to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others for programs directed at torture.

For instance, in 1995, we made a $250,000 grant to the Minnesota-based Center for the Victims of Torture to provide training and technical assistance for Turkish doctors and human rights workers. Additional sums went to the Center to train Bosnian and Croatian torture treatment volunteers. We also supported the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights initiated in 1995 a region-wide effort to train medical personnel to recognize and to treat torture victims. We take pride in our support of these outstanding programs.

Let me summarize some of our specific activities around the world.


The spread of democracy in Latin America in recent years has dramatically reduced the incidence of torture and human rights abuses in the region, and USAID has encouraged that trend in a number of ways. We have supported regional institutions that protect and promote human rights, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (which marks its 20th anniversary this year), and the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights.

Our funding of justice and rule of law programs in Latin America began more than fifteen years ago. In Fiscal Year 1999, our Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean designated about $42 million, or 42 percent of its democracy programs budget, for rule of law programs. About $10 million of that was designated for police reform programs, implemented by the Department of Justice's International Criminal Investigation Training Program, with programs in Bolivia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. These programs work in a variety of ways to overcome the long history of police abuse that exists in some countries.

USAID also supports, as part of its regional democracy programming, the work of the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights. The current three-year grant of $4.7 million was signed in 1997. As part of its program, the Institute supports the work of about fourteen ombudsman offices, through a federation of ombudsmen. The purpose of these offices is to create a visible mechanism to deal with government-sponsored abuses of human rights. Torture is an important focus of their work. The Institute also has created a Program for the Integrated Prevention of Torture. Initially, the focus was on training health professionals in the rehabilitation of torture victims. The current objective is to train prison officials, improve prison conditions, and otherwise give priority to prevention of torture.

In Colombia, USAID is assisting torture victims through assistance to human rights training programs, including training of the Human Rights Units of the Office of Prosecutor General. In Guatemala, USAID has supported work in two relevant areas. The Historical Clarification or Truth Commission received $1.5 million in FY '97 and '98. Another $2.7 million has been invested in treating victims of human rights abuses in the last two fiscal years. Most of this funding was managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which in turn makes sub-grants to local and community groups best suited to respond to a variety of human rights abuses, including torture.

In Haiti, since 1994, USAID has supported a Human Rights Fund. The initial year's funding of $1 million assisted victims of human rights abuses, including rape, beatings in custody and other forms of torture. More than $1 million was spent during the next two years, also exclusively on assisting victims. The most recent extension of the fund through the end of August 1999 is for $2 million, some $600,000 of which is for victim assistance and treatment. This funding is directed where it can do the most good, primarily to individual physicians running their own treatment programs and who are working to establish a countrywide network for referral and treatment. The remainder goes to prevention programs directed at police/community relations and public human rights education. We are pleased that the incidence of human rights abuses in Haiti has declined in recent years, in part because of improved training of the national police.

In Peru, since 1994, USAID has extend assistance to victims of gross violations of human rights through an umbrella agreement with the Catholic Relief Services, which in turn provides grants to local NGOs. These groups provide legal assistance to those wrongly accused of terrorism, many of whom have been tortured. Other programs document torture cases. In the last fiscal year about $375,000 was used to support the Legal Defense Institute and the Legal Coordinator for Human Rights, and the government's Office of the Ombudsman. This year's commitment of $125,000 funds studies on human rights abuses related to torture, to be followed by a public campaign against torture.


In Africa, USAID has a variety of programs directed at torture and related forms of trauma. For example, in 1998 the agency's human rights program in South Africa totaled $1.5 million and placed strong emphasis on victims of violence and torture. In Angola, twenty years of civil war have taken an enormous toll on the emotional, psychological and physical health of Angola's people. The USAID program includes treating and rehabilitating war-traumatized children, landmine victims, and widows and former child--soldiers. USAID supports several interventions addressing the impact of this violence on children and other war victims.

In Liberia, the Displaced Children an d Orphans Fund supports a number of programs that assist children and youth who have been severely affected by years of conflict in that country. The Patrick Leahy War Victims Fund supports clinics that, in addition to assisting landmine victims, also treats people who have been tortured.

In Sierra Leone, USAID is providing $1.3 million through UNICEF to assist children who have been separated from their families, involuntarily conscripted into military groups or otherwise severely affected by violence. Many of these children were physically or psychologically tortured.

In Uganda, with financing from the Displaced Children and Orphan's Fund, USAID initiated a $1.5 million program to treat and rehabilitate demobilized child soldiers and other affected children who were recruited or impressed into insurgent armies, often by beating, torture and the rape of young girls. Many of these children and youths were forced to practice, or were witnesses to, extreme forms of cruelty.


In Cambodia, to address the harsh aftermath of the Khmer Rouge reign of terror, Harvard's School of Public Health's Program of Refugee Trauma has joined with the Ministry of Health in training primary care physicians to recognize and treat mental illness and trauma. Target beneficiaries are refugees, children, landmine victims and widowed women. We have supported this program.


In Bosnia, USAID has supported programs that provide trauma counseling and medical assistance for war victims, including those tortured by rape and other means. Implementing partners have been the International Human Rights Law Group and Delphi. Other funding to local NGOs has been provided to offer counseling to victims of-torture, rape and other atrocities. Fortunately, the incidence of these crimes has greatly diminished since the signing of the Dayton Accords.

In Georgia, assistance is provided through the Horizontal Foundation for organizational development and training to such groups as the Committee Against Torture, Organization for the Defense of Human Rights and Social Security of Prisoners, Media (medical experts), and other human rights NGOs. Also, the Liberty Institute has received funding to track human rights abuses, particularly by police.

Finally, in Kosovo, as USAID and many other organizations and nations begin a massive program of humanitarian relief, we are extremely aware that many of the Kosovars have suffered rape, torture and other forms of brutality. We have supported treatment for these victims in the refugee camps and we will continue to assist them as they return to their homeland.

Because of the large number of Kosovars traumatized as a result of the ethnic cleansing, the response from the international community has not been targeted to any one specific group. The exception has been assistance to rape victims. In their culture to have been raped places a terrible stigma on a woman. The community, even her family, may shun her for an act in which she was the innocent victim.

In general, no matter the cause of the trauma, the symptoms manifested are the same, and include depression, nervousness and tension. The more severely traumatized require trained and skilled assistance to work through the crisis. Already, in the refugee camps, USAID has supported psychosocial assistance, mostly funded by its Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, in the form of training of health providers, teachers, and parents, and the strengthening of local service providers.

In Macedonia, we have supported programs by the International Catholic Migration Committee and Medecine du Monde that include therapeutic activities for girls and women suffering from rape and other forms of trauma. In Albania, Catholic Relief Services social workers have provided trauma counseling to girls and women. At this time we are considering new proposals for services in Kosovo that will include psychosocial treatment to victims of torture and rape. Supplemental funds made available for FY 1999 under the Kosovo Economic and Social Recovery Program will be in part used for this purpose.

In short, Mr. Chairman, we at USAID share your concern about torture wherever it exists. In Kosovo and throughout the world, we intend to use every means at our disposal to prevent these abuses from happening and to care for their victims.

Thank you. I will be glad to take your questions.

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