WMA Leaders in Talks on Implementing New Guidelines for Torture Documentation

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Progress on implementing international guidelines for assessing people who allege torture has taken a step forward with visits by leaders of the World Medical Association to three of the countries involved in establishing a torture detection format.

Recent visits to Mexico, Uganda and Georgia were part of a pilot project which the WMA is undertaking in partnership with other organisations.

Dr James Appleyard, president of the WMA, who has just returned from a visit to Uganda, said:

"It is a sad but brutal fact that in some parts of the world torture and degrading treatment have become systematic and institutionalised, although the pattern of terror and torture may differ from country to country.

The Istanbul Protocol provides both legal and medical guidelines for the recording of individual cases of torture and this implementation project is designed to train heath professionals and lawyers to collaborate more closely in assessing people who allege torture, in investigating such cases and in reporting findings to the judiciary and other investigative bodies.

What the WMA is trying to achieve in its visits is to increase awareness of what we are doing, to get endorsement from the various national bodies in those countries and finally to get these guidelines implemented.

In Uganda, with the help of the president of the Uganda Medical Association, we brought together experts in this field to discuss how they can take this project forward. We want to build on their strengths and enable them to start the healing process for individuals and communities."

Dr Jon Snaedal, chairman of the WMA's ethics committee, has recently returned from a visit to Georgia where he met representatives of the Government, Parliament, academics, lawyers and doctors.

He said: "In spite of general knowledge about torture and degrading treatment of humans and in spite of international statements on the abolition of such treatment, little seems to be changing. This project in these five countries will, I hope, increase the awareness of those who are able to work for change and hopefully we will witness progress towards more civilized societies in this respect. It is of the utmost importance that organisations like the WMA participate in projects of this kind".

Emma Viaud, Chief Operating Officer at the WMA, visited Mexico last month, where she has had an intense week of meetings. She commented: "The meetings were very positive, but there is a long way to go to take this project forward.

Effective investigation and documentation are essential to the prevention of and accountability for torture. This project helps to define and ensure the capacity for such responsibilities."