Refugee and co-founder of anti-torture network Kolbassia Haoussou awarded MBE in New Year 2020 Honours list

Freedom from Torture is delighted that long standing staff member, and co-founder of the campaigning network Survivors Speak OUT, Kolbassia Haoussou has been appointed as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the New Year 2020 Honours list.

Kolbassia is a uniquely influential and inspiring citizen and his work with torture survivors has had a global reach. He leads Survivors Speak OUT (SSO), a national network of torture survivors which speaks with authority on issues of torture, and life in the UK as asylum applicants and refugees who have survived trauma.

Kolbassia is a torture survivor himself 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 before receiving treatment for the psychological impact of his torture at Freedom from Torture.

In 2006, Kolbassia 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. Alongside ambassadors Angelina Jolie and William Hague, Kolbassia called for improved international frameworks to eradicate torture.

Kolbassia, 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. 

Having impressed upon the government the importance of survivor voice, Kolbassia was appointed Survivor Champion for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office initiative Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict in October 2019.  The role, (which was specifically created for Kolbassia and one other colleague), aims to deliver a number of goals. This includes access to holistic care for all survivors, ending stigma and ensuring justice and greater accountability.

Outside of his daily work with SSO and Freedom from Torture, and true to Kolbassia’s helpful nature, he runs a music studio from his own flat for young people vulnerable to gang violence in South West London. He continues to mentor and play an advisory role in the lives of those people.

Kolbassia 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."

Kolbassia Haoussou, SSO Co-ordinator and Service User Champion, 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.”