Academic journal article European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Gross Human Rights Violations and Reparation under International Law: Approaching Rehabilitation as a Form of Reparation

Academic journal article European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Gross Human Rights Violations and Reparation under International Law: Approaching Rehabilitation as a Form of Reparation

Article excerpt

INVITED REVIEW ARTICLE

Gross human rights violations and reparation under international law: approaching rehabilitation as a form of reparation

Nora Sveaass*[dagger]

Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

The strengthening of international criminal law through an increased focus on the right to reparation and rehabilitation for victims of crimes against humanity represents an important challenge to health professionals, particularly to those in the field of trauma research and treatment. A brief outline of some developments in the field of international law and justice for victims of gross human rights violations is presented, with a focus on the right to reparation including the means for rehabilitation. The fulfillment of this right is a complex endeavor which raises many questions. The road to justice and reparation for those whose rights have been brutally violated is long and burdensome. The active presence of trauma-informed health professionals in this process is a priority. Some of the issues raised within the context of states' obligations to provide and ensure redress1 and rehabilitation to those subjected to torture and gross human rights violations are discussed, and in particular how rehabilitation can be understood and responded to by health professionals.

Keywords: Gross human rights violations; redress; rehabilitation; torture; reparation

*Correspondence to: Nora Sveaass, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, NO-0317 Oslo, Norway. Email: nora.sveaass@psykologi.uio.no

For the abstract or full text in other languages, please see Supplementary files under Article Tools online

Received: 9 January 2013; Revised: 31 March 2013; Accepted: 31 March 2013; Published: 8 May 2013

European Journal of Psychotraumatology 2013. © 2013 Nora Sveaass. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/), permitting all non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Citation: European Journal of Psychotraumatology 2013, 4: 17191 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/ejpt.v4i0.17191

Strengthening of the international system to ensure accountability for crimes against humanity and justice for victims involves a stronger focus on the right to reparation, including the means for rehabilitation after torture and other gross human rights violations. This increasing emphasis, especially when extended to the obligation of states to provide rehabilitative care and services to victims of torture, challenges health professionals on many levels. It involves awareness and knowledge about the rights of victims and engagement and presence during legal procedures. Last but not least, it involves active participation, not only in providing care and rehabilitative services, but also in ensuring that the rights contained in international treaties are in fact effectively fulfilled. The obligation to provide redress, and in particular psychosocial and health-related care, rests on a number of conditions, among which political will to provide redress, coupled with actual, available and accessible services, are essential.

A major challenge today is how the international community can ensure that the justice it seeks in fact represents a "just" justice to those who have experienced gross violations of human rights. Necessary attention must be paid to the rights and needs of those involved in the process as victims, witnesses, or other parties. What contributions can the field of traumatology make to secure justice and reparation for those affected in a way that takes into account what they have endured? There is a need to discuss what rehabilitation as a form of reparation means and how this can be dealt with in practice. These questions are discussed below with a focus on how the idea of rehabilitation as a form of reparation or redress has developed within international human rights treaties. …

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