B., a Sinai torture survivor, receives recognition and assistance

Dear Friends,
Our work usually focuses on violations by Israeli authorities, but Israel is also home to people who have experienced terrible torture on their journey to asylum. The accumulated knowledge at PCATI enables us also to assist these people  who are in dire need of support,  through collaboration with other organizations and lawyers. In  rare cases, professional opinion saves people from long imprisonment and allows them to receive official status as torture victims. I am happy to tell you about one such achievement from the last month:

A medico-legal evaluation by a physician and a mental health professional, both volunteers in our Medico-Legal project, led to the recognition of B. as a human trafficking victim in a case litigated by Adv. Michal Pomerantz. This recognition is a tremendous and rare accomplishment. It finally grants B the option of rehabilitation: he is now entitled to stay for a year in a shelter for victims of human trafficking. Even more important, this recognition removes the threat of incarceration in the Holot Detention Center, which would have been extremely detrimental to his rehabilitation given his experience. 

 B. left Eritrea to escape forced conscription. He was sold to smugglers and underwent a series of horrific abuse and torture in the Sinai. When he arrived in Israel he was imprisoned for over a year in the Saharonim incarceration facility. Shortly after his release from the facility, he was summoned to Holot. He appealed this summons, but to no avail. As often occurs, the authorities ignored the torture he underwent and did not consider it a relevant factor in considering his application. His asylum petition was also rejected, though our documents show that his asylum interview was seriously compromised, and that he was not asked about what he went through in the Sinai.

This is where PCATI became involved. Torture survivors display distinct mental and physical symptoms, whose significance is not obvious to an untrained observer. Expert physicians and mental health professionals conduct an evaluation on our behalf, on a voluntary basis. They identify the symptoms and offer recommendations for a therapeutic recovery program. The experts’ professional report can change the way the authorities view the person and his/her legal case.
In B.’s case, the medical-psychological evaluation  determined that what the authorities perceived as confusion indicating unreliability was in fact a common response in severe trauma survivors. They also determined that his physical and psychological symptoms corresponded to and confirmed his account of severe torture.
B’s story might be just one of many,  but for him this recognition means the world. For us, it provides encouragement to continue assisting victims until they receive the recognition they deserve and can start on the path to recovery and rehabilitation. We thank our volunteers who devote their time to this important work, and the organizations that take part in this endeavor. I invite you to read more about the medical-legal documentation project here. You are also invited to forward this mail and help us further share this important story. 
Thank you,

Rachel Stroumsa, Director of PCATI


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