Polly explains what we'll be doing with funding from the UN Fund for Victims of Torture.
I’m Polly Rossdale, and for the last three weeks I’ve been coordinating a new project at Reprieve with Chloe Davies. The aim of this project is to facilitate reintegration, rehabilitation and reparation for former prisoners of Guantánamo Bay in Europe. At the moment we’re just getting started, but once everything is up and running we hope to facilitate comprehensive support and assistance to those who have suffered years of illegal incarceration and abuse.
Reprieve has worked closely with these men for years, and has found that many of them have faced similar challenges upon their return to Europe, including: social stigma and isolation, inadequate specialist medical and psychological care, insecure residence status, financial vulnerability and lack of reparations for their ill treatment and torture. So we were delighted when we won funding from the United Nations Fund for Victims of Torture to help us address these problems.
Chloe and I will be working with a range of partners in the UK and Europe, including the organisation set up by former prisoners, the Guantánamo Justice Centre. We also hope to work closely with the Guantánamo habeas lawyers who will be able to refer their clients to us. In collaboration with the lawyers we will assess the prisoners’ likely needs as well as possible prior to release and coordinate a support package. This package will be offered by a network of service providers in each European country where prisoners will be resettled. We’re in the process of identifying and building relationships with those organisations now.
This project is both a new and exciting departure for Reprieve, and something that has grown organically from the level of support, above and beyond the call of lawyerly duty, that Reprieve has always given its clients. This means that Chloe and I can draw on the phenomenal experience built up by the Guantánamo team – when prisoners are deprived of the right to contact their families or receive visitors, it is often their attorneys who know them best.
We don’t think it will be easy – the complexity of the trauma that prisoners are likely to have undergone, and the uncertain and constantly shifting political terrain will make this an extremely challenging project – but it is a natural step for Reprieve to formalise its commitment to clients after their release. With our help we hope that the optimism of release will be sustained through longer term meaningful support.