ICAR Foundation is a Romanian human rights initiative born in a transitional political climate in 1991, legally registered in 1992, with the first rehabilitation centre opened in Bucharest in 1993, a second in Iasi in 1995, and a third in Craiova in 1998.
ICAR provides assistance to victims of the most severe human right abuses, torture, among nationals and migrants. Gradually other vulnerable groups are receiving assistance, with the range of services increased accordingly. To the health , legal and social services additional activities with adapted weight were included: Advocacy, training and information sessions for stakeholders, research and documentation.
The challenges of establishing and sustaining interdisciplinary services for diverse groups of torture survivors in a context such as Romania, is the focus of this paper. Key issues will be outlined, with examples of practice innovations, analysis of some of our impact, ethical, professional and organisational dilemmas arising in striving towards rehabilitation AND justice for survivors.
Not many organizations have the capacity to deal with all victims’ needs and the much glorified “holistic approach” - which for us is an inter-disciplinary approach, is in practice very difficult to build and to maintain. Whilst we accept that this is the best approach from clients’ perspectives, the organisational challenges (including structure, staff, resources) and sustainability requires a long term strategy balanced with the realities of the daily struggle to address needs and crises at hand.
After the legal registration of ICAR we needed professional guidelines, organizational and financial support to start the activity. We benefited from IRCT coaching (e.g. Prof. Erik Holst), trainings, site visits (intense interaction with our local authorities to back up our initiative and ensure its credibility) and had to rapidly adapt everything we learned to the local situation that was totally different from the rest of Europe.
ICAR’s striving to have a professional interdisciplinary practice with a focus on survivor participation has let us achieve:
• Building the trust of victims and a strong alliance with their associations;
• Building the organization’s image: independent, trustworthy, professional.
• Ensuring political neutrality while developing activities for highly political groups
• Providing robust medical and psychological reports for the use of courts (78% success rate at ECHR);
• Bringing the Romanian State to court, demanding moral reparation for victims of political repression;
• Obtaining official recognition of victims and their families, public excuses and condemnation of Communism by the Head of State;
• Creating /maintaining international partnerships with organizations with similar values and vision.
The presentation will start discussions on building viable organizations in a continuous process with preparedness for more defeats than successes and whether an NGO is capable to become an institution with long-term security for all accomplishments.
Funding & No Conflicts Declaration
We are grateful to our clients for trusting us and to our donors for helping us to help the most deserving people, the torture survivors.