United States. Congress. House. Committee on Inter.

Victims of torture : hearing before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights fo the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, May 8, 1996 online

. (page 1 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

VICTIMS OF TORTURE



I Y 4. IN 8/16: V 66

Uictins of Torture* 104-2 Hearing...

HEARING

BEFORE THE

SUBCOMMITTEE ON
INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

OF THE

COMMITTEE ON

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ONE HUNDRED FOURTH CONGRESS

SECOND SESSION



MAY 8, 1996



Printed for the use of the Committee on International Relations




siiffiBiinaiiDEMTOFbflCii.

DEPflSITORV



OCT 1 1 1996



U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1996



For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington. DC 20402
ISBN 0-16-053418-6



26-405 - 96 - 1



VICTIMS OF TORTURE



Y 4. IN 8/16: V 66

Uictins of Torture, 104-2 Hearing...

HEARING

BEFORE THE

SUBCOMMITTEE ON
INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

OF THE

COMMITTEE ON

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ONE HUNDRED FOURTH CONGRESS

SECOND SESSION



MAY 8, 1996



Printed for the use of the Committee on International Relations



SMIMEOTOFODCIJi
OEPflSiTOfiV







OCT 1 1 1996






U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1996



For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
ISBN 0-16-053418-6



26-405 - 96 - 1



COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS



BENJAMIN A. GI
WILLIAM F. GOODLING, Pennsylvania
JAMES A. LEACH, Iowa
TOBY ROTH, Wisconsin
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
DOUG BEREUTER, Nebraska
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey
DAN BURTON, Indiana
JAN MEYERS, Kansas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida
CASS BALLENGER, North Carolina
DANA ROHRABACHER, California
DONALD A. MANZULLO, Illinois
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California
PETER T. KING, New York
JAY KIM, California
SAM BROWNBACK, Kansas
DAVID FUNDERBURK, North Carolina
STEVEN J. CHABOT, Ohio
MARSHALL "MARK" SANFORD, South

Carolina
MATT SALMON, Arizona
AMO HOUGHTON, New York
TOM CAMPBELL, California



LMAN, New York, Chairman

LEE H. HAMILTON, Indiana

SAM GEJDENSON, Connecticut

TOM LANTOS, California

ROBERT G. TORRICELLI, New Jersey

HOWARD L. BERMAN, California

GARY L. ACKERMAN, New York

HARRY JOHNSTON, Florida

ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American

Samoa
MATTHEW G. MARTINEZ, California
DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey
ROBERT E. ANDREWS, New Jersey
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
SHERROD BROWN, Ohio
CYNTHIA A. MCKINNEY, Georgia
ALCEE L. HASTINGS, Florida
ALBERT RUSSELL WYNN, Maryland
JAMES P. MORAN, Virginia
VICTOR O. FRAZER, Virgin Islands (Ind.)
CHARLIE ROSE, North Carolina
PAT DANNER, Missouri



Richard J. Garon, Chief of Staff
MICHAEL H. Van DUSEN, Democratic Chief of Staff



Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights



CHRISTOPHER H.
BENJAMIN A. GILMAN, New York
WILLIAM F. GOODLING, Pennsylvania
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
PETER T. KING, New York
DAVID FUNDERBURK, North Carolina
MATT SALMON, Arizona
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California



SMITH, New Jersey, Chairman
TOM LANTOS, California
CYNTHIA A. McKINNEY, Georgia
JAMES P. MORAN, Virginia
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American

Samoa
DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey



GROVER JOSEPH Rees, Subcommittee Staff Director and Chief Counsel

ROBERT R. KING, Democratic Professional Staff Member

DOUGLAS C. ANDERSON, Professional Staff Member

Stephanie E. Schmidt, Staff Associate



(II)



CONTENTS



WITNESSES



Page

Mr. James E. Smrkovski, survivor of torture 4

Mr. Richard Oketch, survivor of torture 6

Dr. Tenzin Choedrak, personal physician to His Holiness the Dalai Lama 7

Dr. Inge Genefke, Medical Director, Rehabilitation and Research Centre for
Torture Victims, and International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Vic-
tims 16

Ms. Mary Diaz, Director, Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Chil-
dren 18

Mr. Robert B. Jobe, Attorney at Law 21

Mr. Daniel Wolf, Attorney, Hughes, Hubbard & Reed LLP 23

Mr. Douglas A. Johnson, Executive Director, The Center for Victims of Tor-
ture 26

APPENDIX

Prepared statements:

Mr. James E. Smrkovski 41

Mr. Richard Oketch 45

Dr. Tenzin Choedrak 48

Dr. Inge Genefke ., 55

Ms. Mary Diaz 72

Mr. Robert B. Jobe 81

Mr. Daniel Wolf 85

Mr. Douglas A. Johnson 89

Statement submitted for the record by Phyllis A. Coven, Director of Inter-
national Affairs, Immigration and Naturalization Service 101



(HI)



VICTIMS OF TORTURE



WEDNESDAY, MAY 8, 1996

House of Representatives,
Committee on International Relations,
Subcommittee on International Operations and Human

Rights,
Washington, DC

The committee met, pursuant to call, at 2:40 p.m. in room 2172,
Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC, Hon. Christopher
H. Smith (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.

Mr. Smith. The subcommittee will come to order. Good after-
noon. Today the subcommittee will hear testimony on the contin-
ued and widespread persistence of torture in the world today, and
what steps the United States and other free and civilized nations
can do about it.

Three of our witnesses are themselves victims of torture: a native
of Uganda who suffered at the hands of Idi Amin; a Tibetan physi-
cian who was tortured by the Chinese Communists; and an Amer-
ican who became a torture victim in Saudi Arabia after he had a
falling out with his employer, the Saudi Government.

You will also hear from witnesses who are experts on the serious
difficulties often encountered by torture victims at the hands of the
very institutions that are designed to help them, including refugee
and asylum hospices as well as the State Department's process for
espousing claims against foreign governments and similar struc-
tures.

Finally, we will hear testimony on the treatment of torture vic-
tims designed to bring about the remission and eventual cure of
the severe physical and emotional and psychological consequences
of torture.

As we begin this hearing, I should say that I am proud to be
principal sponsor along with my good friend, the ranking member
Tom Lantos, and 48 cosponsors of H.R. 1416, the Torture Victims
Relief Act of 1995. The Act contains a number of important provi-
sions designed to assist torture victims.

First, implementation of the provisions of the convention against
torture that prohibits the involuntary return of any person to a
country in which there are substantial grounds for believing that
he or she would be in danger of being subjected to torture. Because
the United States has ratified the convention, this provision is al-
ready binding on the United States as a matter of international
law, but it has as yet not been incorporated into our domestic law,
and the time has come to do so.

(l)



Second, expedited processing for asylum applicants who present
credible claims of subjugation into torture, a presumption that such
applicants shall not be detained during the pendency of their asy-
lum claims, and a provision taking into account the effect of torture
in the adjudication of such claims.

Third, specialized training for consular, immigration and asylum
personnel on the identification of evidence of torture, techniques for
interviewing torture victims and related subjects.

Fourth, a Center for Disease Control study with respect to tor-
ture victims currently in the United States and the recovery serv-
ices available for such persons.

Fifth, authorization of grants for rehabilitation services for vic-
tims of torture and related purposes.

Sixth, authorization of voluntary contributions from the United
States to the U.N. Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture in the
amount of $1.5 million for 1996 and $3 million for fiscal year 1997.
The U.S. contribution to this fund in 1995 is $1.5 million.

At the time the bill was introduced last year, the Administration
had proposed to cut the fiscal year 1996 contribution by two-thirds
to $500,000. I am happy to say that after introduction of H.R. 1416
any inclusion of the $1.5 million figure in H.R. 1561, the Foreign
Relations Authorization Act, the Administration eventually contrib-
uted the full $1.5 million in 1996. The Administration budget pro-
posal for 1997 also includes a $1.5 million contribution to the Vol-
untary Fund.

And finally, the bill contains an expression of the sense of Con-
gress, that the United States shall use its voice and its vote in the
United Nations to support the investigation and the elimination of
practices prohibited by the Convention Against Torture.

Although the scope of this hearing is by no means limited to the
provisions of H.R. 1416, I would welcome any comments the wit-
nesses may have about the legislation. At this particular time, I
would like to recognize my good friend and colleague, Mr. Lantos,
for any opening comments he might have.

Mr. LANTOS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I welcome
the holding of this hearing today and I am delighted to commend
you for dealing with this issue. We have frequently dealt with the
serious and tragic matter of the use of torture to violate individual
human rights. We have dealt with a number of countries which vio-
late human rights through torture.

Today our hearing takes a different focus. We are considering the
consequences of torture, the effects of brutality against individuals
and the serious and deep seated problems that result when ruth-
less and inhuman torture are used to enforce compliance or to deny
human rights. We are also considering the programs that exist to
help the victims who have suffered.

Mr. Chairman, you will be pleased to know that there is a large
community of human rights activists in my congressional district
in San Francisco who have long supported efforts to deal with the
consequences suffered by victims of torture.

Survivors International in San Francisco is a non-profit treat-
ment center which provides both psychological and medical care to
the survivors of torture from around the globe. I commend them for



their commitment to human rights and to helping the victims who
have suffered for seeking to exercise their human and civil rights.

Mr. Chairman, I note that I have had experience in the past with
some of our excellent panel witnesses. Mr. James Smrkovski was
one of the victims of human rights abuse by the officials of Saudi
Arabian security forces. This case was one that was discussed and
examined in detail by the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle
East a number of years ago when I had the pleasure of chairing
that hearing.

I was appalled by the treatment he received when he was in
Saudi Arabia. I am pleased that he will be here for this hearing
today to tell this committee first hand of the abuse he suffered and
the course of recovery that he has been forced to pursue.

Dr. Tenzin Choedrak, personal physician to His Holiness the
Dalai Lama will also testify today. I know in some detail of the
many tragic aspects of his imprisonment and torture by the Chi-
nese Government. I am very grateful that he will testify.

I am pleased that we have a distinguished series of witnesses at
this hearing who have dealt first-hand with the problems faced
with victims of torture. I want to apologize that simultaneous con-
flicting duties will compel me to be away for part of this time, but
I look forward to reading and studying their testimony. Thank you,
Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Smith. Thank you, very much, Mr. Lantos. The Chair would
like to recognize Mr. Faleomavaega.

Mr. Faleomavaega. Mr. Chairman, I certainly would like to as-
sociate myself with the comments made previously by my good
friend from California and I certainly want to commend you for the
outstanding leadership that you displayed for the subcommittee in
bringing up these issues that are important as far as human rights
are concerned. I certainly would like to personally welcome the
members of our panel here this afternoon and look forward to lis-
tening to their testimony. Thank you.

Mr. SMITH. Thank you, very much. I would like to introduce our
first three panelists and ask, because of time constraints and the
second panel that awaits, if you could keep your comments to ap-
proximately 10 minutes. Your full statements will be made a part
of the record.

James Smrkovski, as Mr. Lantos pointed out a moment ago, is
a U.S. citizen who was tortured by officials of the government of
Saudi Arabia. While working as a training specialist for Saudi Ara-
bian Airlines in 1985, Mr. Smrkovski was arrested and tortured.
He was subjected to electric shock, tortured, and was held in soli-
tary confinement for more than 1 year.

Richard Oketch is a special education teacher in St. Paul, Min-
nesota. He is originally from Uganda and is a member of the Luo
Tribe on the northern part of Uganda. Mr. Oketch was tortured in
Uganda during the reign of Idi Amin. While imprisoned, his hands
were shackled to his feet and he received little food. Mr. Oketch ar-
rived in the United States in 1982.

And finally, Dr. Tenzin Choedrak is a personal physician to His
Holiness the Dalai Lama. In 1959, Dr. Choedrak was arrested in
the wake of the Tibetan people's uprising in Lhasa. After being
held in Lhasa for some time, Dr. Choedrak was sent to prison in



China. Among the few Tibetans who survived the ordeal in China,
he was sent back to Tibet in 1962 and left for India in October
1980. I welcome this distinguished panel of survivors who have en-
dured so much. The subcommittee looks forward to your testimony.
If you would begin.

STATEMENT OF JAMES EDWARD SMRKOVSKI, SURVIVOR OF

TORTURE

Mr. Smrkovski. My name is Jim Smrkovski. I now live in Min-
neapolis, Minnesota. However, I have spent most of my adult life
traveling and working in foreign countries, mainly in Europe and
the Middle East and Southeast Asia. In September 1976 after hav-
ing spent several years in Europe and in Iran and 3 years in Saudi
Arabia with Aramco, I was recruited by the kingdom of Saudi Ara-
bia to work for Saudi Arabian Airlines.

For the next 9 years I taught English, developed teaching mate-
rials and managed various language programs for Saudi Arabian
Airlines. Through my job I made friends with dozens of Saudis,
many of them extremely critical of the ruling family. I listened in-
tently to their criticisms, but was always very careful not to ex-
press my own views.

My life in Saudi Arabia was relatively uneventful until one late
night in the summer of 1985 when I was suddenly taken from my
home by men in plain Saudi clothing. For the next 454 days, I was
held in various interrogation centers in Jeddah and Taif, the sum-
mer home of the royal family, spending a total of 10 months in soli-
tary confinement in underground cells with not even a mattress to
sleep on.

Most of this time I was at a military installation. For the first
26 days of my captivity, neither my family nor my government
knew of my whereabouts or what had happened to me.

During this time I was repeatedly asked questions about my
travels to Iran, Israel and other countries about certain acquaint-
ances, about terrorist activities, espionage and arms smuggling in
the kingdom. This was a few short years after the demonstrations
by Shiite Muslims in the eastern province and also an uprising in
Mecca at the Mosque.

Many stashes of arms, were discovered in the country in various
places. And apparently they thought I knew something about these
arms.

I was kept awake with noise, with lights and with dousings of
hot and cold water. I was forced to do knee bends to the point of
exhaustion. I was forced to stand with my hands cuffed high above
my head for hours on end. And I was beaten on the feet with a
bamboo rod. I was subjected to other forms of torment and torture
which I find too painful to discuss here. You have, however, my
written statement which goes into more detail.

Finally, 26 days after my arrest, one of the interrogators had me
cleaned up, shaved and driven blindfolded to a court where I was
told to confess to some minor alcohol violation. I had no choice but
to accept because my chief interrogator was sitting across from me.

Later the same day I was allowed for the first time to meet with
a U.S. counselor officer at a local jail. Later I was to find out that



the counselor officer thought I was at this jail. However, I had been
taken from a military installation to this location.

During the long months that followed, I was repeatedly moved
from one location to another. Each time I was told that I would
soon be released.

And finally after 454 long days and nights I was put on an air-
plane and flown to Thailand where my wife and daughter did not
recognize me for I had lost 40 pounds. My skin was pale and ac-
cording to my wife I looked 10 years older.

Now, since my release, life for me and my whole family has been
exceedingly difficult. My father was especially affected. He often
sank into depression and passed away 2 years ago from pneu-
monia. My mother is no longer her former vibrant self. My wife,
I feel, suffered emotionally more than I did not knowing what had
happened to me and imagining the worst. She is continually de-
pressed and irritable, but refuses medical help.

My son once attempted suicide. He will not admit it to me, but
I believe that he blamed himself for what happened to me. You see,
when I was arrested, the Saudi secret police found a photograph
of my son wearing a medallion in the form of the Star of David and
apparently thought that I was Jewish and an Israeli spy and what
else I do not know.

For the first 5 years after my release, I often relived my experi-
ences in the form of nightmares, flashbacks and mental and phys-
ical pain. I could not sit in one position for more than a few min-
utes without suffering from intense lower back pain and aching in
my tail bone and knees. I was unable to concentrate, had very little
energy, and was always irritable. To this day I have been unable
to get full-time employment. I have tried teaching, but after an
hour or two I get so exhausted that I have to stop and rest.

Until 5 years after my release, my symptoms of post-traumatic
stress disorder were at times unbearable. Then I discovered the
Center for Victims of Torture in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

At the Center, I underwent intensive psychological and physical
evaluations. For the first 2 years I received help from doctors,
nurses and social workers. Since then I have returned periodically
for continued therapy.

As a result of the help I received at the center, I feel that my
life has dramatically improved. However, my doctors tell me that
I may never fully recover. I now have significantly fewer night-
mares and flashbacks and my aches and pains have decreased in
intensity and I am less irritable.

However, despite these improvements I find it difficult to con-
tinue my career in education because of the lack of energy and con-
centration and often when I am in a stressful situation my symp-
toms come back. The back pains, the knee aches and the shaking
returns and I break down and cry like a baby sometimes.

For the time being I am managing and taking care of a small
apartment building, a task far less demanding than teaching. Un-
fortunately, I have no insurance that covers my treatment and
medication, but have been able to obtain services from the Center
in Minneapolis free of charge. The cost of such treatment and medi-
cation would otherwise have been prohibitively expensive. People
like myself find it very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain health



insurance that will cover treatment and medication for post-trau-
matic stress disorder.

I do not know what psychological and physical shape I would be
in here today if it were not for the aid I received from the Center
in Minneapolis. Through the Center, I have met numerous other
torture victims who were unable to obtain insurance coverage for
the aftereffects of torture.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize the importance of mak-
ing funds available to help the countless thousands of torture sur-
vivors like myself. I thank you for listening to my testimony.

[The prepared statement of Mr. Smrkovski appears in the appen-
dix.]

Mr. Smith. Thank you very much for your very moving testi-
mony, and for describing to this subcommittee and the Congress
and the many who will see this hearing record what it is like to
go through not only horrendous torture, but also the unbelievable
aftermath that affects not just you but your entire family in such
a deleterious way. So thank you very much. After all of the wit-
nesses we will get to some questions. Thank you. I would like to
ask our next witness, Mr. Oketch, if he would present his testi-
mony.

STATEMENT OF RICHARD OKETCH, SURVIVOR OF TORTURE

Mr. OKETCH. Thank you. My name is Richard Oketch. I am a
survivor of torture. I am presently a special education teacher and
a program specialist for the minority encouragement program in
St. Paul, Minnesota. I am also a doctoral candidate in the area of
education.

I am here to ask Congress to enact the Torture Victim's Relief
Act of 1995. I was born in Uganda and became a torture victim
during the military dictatorship of Idi Amin, between the years
1973 to 1977.

Prior to that, my family was involved in the civilian government.
Subsequently my uncle who was a member of Parliament was shot
soon after the coup for refusing to serve the military government.

It was at this time that my family became a target and was con-
sidered a threat to the military government. Through the name
recognition, systematic elimination was begun. My father, two
brothers, and several male cousins disappeared. My sister and her
boyfriend were picked up from the University and have never been
seen again.

As for me, I survived death but was not far from it. I was in pris-
on three times, either being picked up at work or from my house.
During my imprisonment, I was severely beaten, raped, bayo-
netted, forced to participate in mutilation of other prisoners, forced
to consume large quantities of liquor for the enjoyment of the sol-
diers.

I suffered dislocated shoulders, cracked ribs, infected wounds and
was often denied food and water. I was forced to load dead bodies
on trucks and clean the bloody mess of the torture victims and the
rooms.

Because some of the soldiers in the army were past schoolmates
of mine, I was able to remain alive and to be here speaking to you.
My physical wounds and bones healed leaving some visible scars



and invisible mental scars that remain. It is these mental scars the
Center for Victims of Torture attempted to understand and heal.

For 15 years, I lived with the dimensions of torture derived from
the original torture in the military prisons. It was mind against
self. I suffered perpetual nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety attacks
and many times injured myself in an attempt to flee during sleep.
I never slept for more than 3 hours and for many occasions found
myself lost in other cities other than Minneapolis.

I am here to tell you that it is only through the Center for Vic-
tims of Torture treatment centers that these problems can be re-
duced. Their multi-disciplinary approach and dedication have
brought greater support and recognition from the communities
around the area. And because of treatment at the Center, I am able
to function and remain productive in society. It is a clear indication
of the many successes of the program.

I would also add not all victims have the potential to achieve this
freedom from mental anguish because the Center relies on vol-
untary donations and fundraising efforts that get things going and
because of international restrictions faced by victims of torture
along border controls and the fact that there are still no specific
screening guidelines to identify torture victims; also because of lack
of understanding about torture and torture victims as they struggle
to make their case known.

I ask this committee to give this bill a chance to support treat-
ment programs like the Minnesota Center for Victims of Torture
and others like it in the United States. Thank you, very much.

[The prepared statement of Mr. Oketch appears in the appendix.]

Mr. Smith. Thank you very much for your testimony. Again, we
will get to questions momentarily. I appreciate it.

Doctor.

STATEMENT OF DR. TENZIN CHOEDRAK, PERSONAL
PHYSICIAN TO HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA

Dr. Choedrak. [Through interpreter. *] Thank you, Mr. Chair-
man and members of the subcommittee for providing me the oppor-
tunity to testify before you today. My name is Tenzin Choedrak
and I am a practitioner of traditional Tibetan medicine.


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11