Online proceedings for the IRCT General Assembly and 10th International Scientific Symposium - Delivering on the Promise of the Right to Rehabilitation

Time: 15:40 to 16:00 Download Presentation

The balancing act: International and national legal frameworks on the right to rehabilitation with contextual realities in South Africa

Presenter(s) and co-author(s): Ms. Annah Moyo ( Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation - South Africa ), Ms. Dominique Dix-Peek ( Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation - South Africa )


Under international law, the right to rehabilitation for torture survivors has been well articulated. Although the majority of Southern African countries have ratified the UNCAT, and some domesticated it, the right to rehabilitation for survivors of torture remains unrealised. In South Africa, the Prevention and Combating of Persons of Torture Act which criminalises torture is silent on redress, particularly on rehabilitation for survivors. In addition, other stressors, such as violence and socio-economic factors contribute to the challenges that survivors of torture face in accessing rehabilitation. There is a need for policies and dedicated implementation that enable access to rehabilitation.


This presentation is based on research on the normative frameworks regarding rehabilitation for survivors of torture, as well as an analysis of challenges regarding access to rehabilitation in South Africa at a social, policy- related, and economic level. We furthermore analyse the qualitative and quantitative information coming out of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation's centralised monitoring and evaluation system to understand the personal and familial constraints that survivors of torture experience regarding access to re- habilitation. This presentation will highlight the gap between the normative framework on rehabilitation and member state's responsibilities in providing rehabilitation on the one hand, and the persisting challenges hindering access to rehabilitation for survivors of torture.


Although the right to rehabilitation is expressly provided for in international law, member states continue to be reluctant to adhere to their responsibilities. Rehabilitation is costly and seldom time-bound which makes budgeting for it challenging. Additionally, psychosocial support to survivors of torture often requires professional, specialised services. Therefore the strengthening of capacity to provide rehabilitation services is essential. Based on clinical experience, the CSVR has found that within South Africa, refugees and asylum seekers who have been tortured, both in South Africa and elsewhere, often experience multiple additional stressors such as denial of documentation to legalise their status, refusal of medical services, lack of accommodation and employment. High levels of violence, as well as xenophobia exacerbate these stressors. For this reason, psychosocial services often compete with the daily necessities of survivors in this context. These challenges necessitate concrete strategies for strengthening torture survivors' access to rehabilitation in South   Africa.

Funding & No Conflicts Declaration

Funding for this study is provided by USAID, Sigrid Rausing and Dignity. The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

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