Torture victim is made MBE in New Year’s honours list

A former torture victim who fled to Britain and then set up a support network for similar refugees has been named in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours.

Co-founder of the campaigning network Survivors Speak OUT (SSO), Balham resident Kolbassia Haoussou, who has spoken and lobbied at the United Nations, has been made an MBE.

He created the national network of torture survivors which speaks out on issues of torture and supports asylum applicants and refugees who have survived trauma.

Kolbassia Haoussou, SSO co-ordinator, said: “It is a privilege to be honoured in this way. For years, torture survivors like myself have been fighting a number of battles. We live with our traumas, we rely on a challenging and often hostile system for basic rights, and we are faced with stigma at every turn.

I hope that this award raises awareness of the work that we are doing, and ensures that survivors are treated with dignity and are at the heart of decision-making. I will do everything in my power to ensure we achieve this aims.”

Mr Haoussou is a torture survivor and came to the UK in 2005 after fleeing persecution in central Africa. He experienced the challenges of being a refugee in Britain, which included immigration detention, homelessness and mental health issues. He then received treatment for the psychological impact of his torture at charity Freedom from Torture.

In 2006, he co-founded SSO with other survivors and Freedom from Torture where his work has global impact. He has addressed the UN General Assembly in New York and the United Nationals Committed Against Torture. Kolbassia called for improved international frameworks to eradicate torture.

Mr Haoussou, along with Freedom from Torture, has campaigned for a greater role for survivors in evidence-based policymaking. He believes that torture survivors are torture experts and their contribution is vital for change. 

He was appointed survivor champion for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office initiative Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict in October 2019. 

The role aimed to care for all survivors, end stigma and ensure justice and greater accountability.

He also runs a music studio from his own flat for young people vulnerable to gang violence. He continues to mentor and play an advisory role in the lives of those people.

Mr Haoussou regularly writes blogs and produces motivational videos on issues including mental health, activism, leadership skills and life after torture.

Sonya Sceats, Chief Executive of Freedom from Torture, said: “Kolbassia has provided invaluable services to his community and to all torture survivors. It has been amazing to watch him convert his personal experiences and trauma in to positive change and tangible policies that will improve the lives of vulnerable people.”

“I am delighted that such an inspirational and kind person will be getting the recognition he deserves.”

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