Since the MFP Health Center For Victims of Torture opened its doors in November 2009, the medical team has delivered primary care, written more than 200 affidavits, and given testimony in court on behalf of asylum seekers. Our testimony and affidavits have played an important role in convincing immigration judges that our patients were torture victims in their home country, and are worthy of asylum in the United States. MFP has partnered with the Advocates for Survivors of Torture and Trauma (ASTT) and Torture Advocates and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) to offer a wide range of medical, mental health and social services to torture victims.
Patients have been referred to our Health Center from 13 immigration lawyers, and from the law clinics at Georgetown University, American University, the University of Maryland, and the Baltimore University Law Schools. The majority of our patients are from Africa (primarily Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cameroon, and Democratic Republic of Congo), Burma, and from Central America. Our patients have been victims of an alarming variety of physical and emotional tortures prohibited by the U.N. Convention on Torture. We care for a large number of women who have been raped in prison, a common practice among Governments who practice torture with impunity, and women who have been victims of female genital mutilation. This work is consistent with MFP’s concern for women’s health and human rights, as demonstrated by our other programs such as the women’s health initiative in Haiti, our previous work with Bosnian rape victims, and the educational programs of the Scholarship fund for Girls in the United States and Haiti.
There are 150 countries around the world that actively engage in Government condoned torture. Many of the torture survivors are among the 50,000 applicants per year seeking asylum in the US, with a backlog of 350,000 cases to be decided. It is estimated that there are forty thousand asylum seekers in the greater DC area; they are seeking asylum based on their having been tortured in their home countries, and the probability that they will be persecuted or killed if they return home.
MFP acts for the prevention of torture by educating the general public and the medical profession about the devastating effects of torture on its victims and the wider society in general. MFP strongly advocates full disclosure of U.S. medical doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists who oversaw or participated in torture, and that they receive the appropriate disciplinary actions by professional licensing boards.
Photo: The Health Center Team– from left, Evelyne Tchoukochouko, Michael Viola, Samrawit Woldergiorgis, Kathleen Crane-Viola, Lewis Marshall, and Pat Clausen