House Passes Smith's Torture Victims Relief Reauthorization Act
December 6, 2005
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The House of Representatives today passed to legislation authored by Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) - Chairman of the committee that oversees human rights - that provides $90 million in assistance to torture victims around the world over the next two years, including 400,000 survivors in the United States. HR 2017, the Torture Victims Relief Reauthorization Act of 2005 provides $75 million in grants for rehabilitation services to assist victims of torture in foreign and domestic treatment centers and other torture relief assistance.
Smith, who also authored the legislation creating the Torture Victims Relief program in 1998 (PL 105-320), the Torture Victims Relief Reauthorization Act (TVRA) of 1999 (PL 106-87), and the Torture Victims Relief Reauthorization Act of 2003 (PL 108-179), held a hearing in June to examine the implementation of the 1998 law has been and to urge reauthorization of the law.
"Congress is taking a giant step in helping to repair the broken lives of torture victims with the passage of my bill today," said Smith, who led floor debate on the bill. "Those who suffer horrific cruelty at the hands of despotic governments, military, and/or police usually bear physical, emotional, and psychological scars for the rest of their lives and the Torture Victims Relief Act provides them with much needed aid and resources."
HR 2017 is designed to ensure that particular attention is given to domestic torture victims in regions with significant immigrant and refugee populations. The measure authorizes $25 million for Fiscal Year 2006 and $25 million for Fiscal Year 2007 to the Department of Health and Human Services to assist torture treatment centers in the United States. This maintains the current $25 million authorization funding level for Fiscal Year 2005 for such centers. In addition to direct assistance, many of these centers are also engaged in training mainstream organizations and personnel in the specialized treatment of torture victims
"For many of these victims, if not most of them, the ordeal of torture does not end when they are released from a gulag or prison," said Smith.
The TVRA also gives emphasis to centers and programs abroad in emerging democracies and post-conflict environments. Non-governmental organizations that receive this funding provide direct services to survivors, their families and their communities. They also strengthen institutions on the ground and the indigenous capacity of these institutions to deliver services to survivors. In addition to providing treatment, many of these programs advocate for the elimination of torture in their countries.
"Just yesterday, heroic witnesses courageously testified against Saddam Hussein and his regime of torture and described suffering on a scale beyond belief," Smith said. "In order to foster the birth of democracy in Iraq and other parts of the globe, we must put an end to torture that has prevented it from taking hold in the past and work to heal the victims that witnessed the very worst of humankind."
The bill maintains current authorization levels of $7 million for Fiscal Year 2006 for the UN Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Torture. It would increase this funding to $8 million for Fiscal Year 2007. In 2001 alone, the UN Fund assisted 77,928 victims of torture. Organizations which receive grants from the Fund provide psychological, medical, social, legal and economic assistance.