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Rehabilitation And Research Centre For Torture Victims rebuilding people

You can help us Today, torture affects millions of people worldwide. It can strike random, innocent individuals for no reason other than their religious beliefs, convictions or ethnicity. It is our mission to eradicate this cruelty forever.

To do this, we need your help.

What exactly is RCT? Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT) is a self-governing institution independent of party politics. The concept behind RCT was originally developed in 1974 by Amnesty International’s first medical group, when knowledge of torture was virtually nonexistent. The primary objective was to document the use of torture by examining victims. One of the groups strongest advocates, Inge Genefke MD, initiated the establishment of RCT as a separate organisation in 1982. Through many years working with torture victims, RCT has developed specialist rehabilitation techniques and established an international documentation centre. To meet the growing global demand for rehabilitation of torture survivors the world over, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) was formed in 1985, initially as a department of RCT. In 1997, RCT and IRCT were separated into two independent organisations. Today, RCT is part of a global network of human rights organisations fighting torture and other forms of organised violence. As of 2008 RCT has “Special Consultative Status” with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, giving RCT an opportunity to provide advice and expertise to the United Nations regarding torture and torture victims.

Vision and objectives Put simply, our objective is to remove torture and organised violence (TOV) from the face of the earth.

Our domestic work has led to valuable knowledge and experience, which can be applied elsewhere in the world in partnership with other organisations working with torture.

RCT’s work is founded on the respect for human rights and the dignity and integrity of each individual. We aim to alleviate human suffering resulting from torture – for individuals, family members and communities.

Internationally we co-operate with local organisations working to diminish effects of torture or prevent torture and organised violence. In such cases RCT personnel work as consultants facilitating the exchange of knowledge and expertise.

RCT is a research-led institution and seeks a scientific base for its approaches. Knowledge is generated, sustained and disseminated through our own efforts and through networking activities and co-operation with likeminded organisations and researchers worldwide. We also seek to prevent torture by altering the mechanisms and circumstances that cause it. By preventing torture, we ensure respect for human rights and social justice and move towards the broader goal of a society free of human suffering. In Denmark, RCT rehabilitates refugees who have survived torture and conducts research on torture and related sequelae. RCT health professionals expose and document torture. Our clinical assessment and rehabilitation methods are based on systematic examination of torture survivors and research into TOV.

RCT is currently involved in projects in Albania, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Gaza, Jordan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Honduras and Guatemala. Besides our partner organisations around the world, RCT works with a wide network of Danish and other European organisations in the areas of health, human rights, refugee - and develop­ ment aid. We train and educate social and health professionals around the world. Professors, psychologists, legal professionals, social workers, nurses, physiotherapists, teachers, police staff and students of these professions all benefit from our extensive knowledge and expertise.



International co-operation


Torture is about breaking human beings down, rehabilitation is about building them up again. This process plays a major role in our work, both here in Denmark and abroad.

To eliminate the suffering, we must address the causes of torture. A crucial part of our work focuses on preventing torture, thereby ensuring respect for human rights, social justice and a development towards a society without human suffering.

Torture is an international problem – and it must be solved internationally, making it one of RCT’s main priorities.

RCT conducts research into the mental and physical sequelae of torture, the methodology of treatment of torture survivors as well as the reasons for and effects of torture on affected communities. Our main objective is the elimination of torture world-wide.

More than one-third of refugees who obtain asylum in Denmark have been subjected to torture. Without proper treatment, they find it difficult to integrate in their new home. Many torture survivors are injured both mentally and physically to an extent that they do not have the strength to live normal lives. They isolate themselves and often find it hard to talk to their closest relations about their experiences. However, with the right kind of help and support, torture survivors regain their self-esteem and begin to live normal lives again. The rehabilitation is crossdisciplinary. The Rehabilitation Department at RCT employs physiotherapists, psychologists, physicians, social workers and secretaries along with affiliated consultants from a broad spectrum of specialist fields e.g. psychiatry. The programme is solution oriented and aims to help the client live a more independent life.

The basis of RCT’s prevention work is the UN Convention of 1984 against Torture and Other Cruel and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Another cornerstone is the Optional Protocol to the 1984-convention, which specifically outlines measures to prevent torture. Denmark has ratified both the convention and its protocol. RCT’s work also builds on the principles behind a series of international and regional conventions and declarations, including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights of 1948 and the Council of Europe’s 1987 Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Only a fraction of the people subjected to torture can be offered treatment here in Denmark. There­fore, RCT’s work transcends international borders to reach survivors of torture and their families, wherever they are located. RCT co-operates with organisations throughout the world to provide others with RCT’s unique experience in treating survivors of torture, and to enable RCT to impart the experiences of other organisations. Equally important, RCT works with local organisations to prevent torture. RCT is currently working extensively on projects based in five regions; The Balkans, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

We have developed a knowledge centre, that is the most extensive library of materials about torture in the world. Users can access systematised and substantiated information on torture including models for reha­bili­tation and prevention of TOV. All our work is published in international peer-reviewed journals signaling quality and enabling our participation in international scientific dialogue and networks. Within each scientific area, we have established a network of partners to generate and evaluate knowledge. We also aim to establish a database which will ensure the users easy access to up-dated knowledge within specific scientific areas.

Rebuilding Mohammed Mohammed is now safely reunited with his family and living in Denmark, but he still endures the hell of being jailed for his political beliefs in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons. Every day he remembers the window-less cell, the constant humiliation, the daily beatings and, not least, the other prisoners’ screams for help. He suffers severe physical pain in his head, back and feet. He has difficulty sleeping and often wakes up screaming. Today Mohammed participates in rehabilitation at RCT along with his wife and children, who all have suffered because of the torture he sustained.

Different types of torture:

What exactly is torture?

Mental torture

Physical torture Torture is about breaking people mentally and physically, to extract information, extort a confession or spread terror and fear. Torture can be defined in many ways, but according to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, torture is present when the following three conditions are fulfilled:

• Severe pain or suffering is intentionally inflicted, either physically or mentally • Forced confessions, information, or punishments are sought • A public authority carries out, encourages or consents to the use of torture

The purpose of torture is not to kill but to break down the personality of an individual. Torture is often used as a political instrument to suppress opposition and is endemic in countries that rest on a single political or religious party. Suppressing people in this way weakens political resistance. It is difficult to document torture. In some cases it can be difficult to determine whether torture has been committed as it is based on subjective assessment. Often, torturers use methods that do not leave permanent, visible damage. The best known convention against torture is the UN Convention of 1984, which has been ratified by more than 140 countries. Other conventions, resolutions and declarations have been adopted both internationally and regionally, focussing on human rights and torture. Nevertheless, torture takes place, either systematically or randomly in more than half the countries of the world.

Torture after-effects

Although physical torture methods can be severe, the most damaging torture is the mental torture. The most frequent mental torture methods: * Isolation * Watching other people being tortured * Threats

* Simulated executions * Sexual humiliation * Food and sleep deprivation

The most frequent physical torture methods: * Blows against the soles of the foot (falanga) * Sexual torture * Electrical torture * Choking torture * Water torture (submarino)

* Burns * Suspension (Palestinian hanging) * Pharmacological torture * Mutilation * Physical exhaustion

The after-effects of torture are wide-ranging, complex and often disabling. In many cases, it can be difficult to trace the physical signs of torture after the torture has taken place. However, the mental after-effects can haunt the torture survivor many years after the event. People who have been exposed to severe trauma show some characteristic reactions that can lead to both mental and physical after-effects. The mental symptoms can be described by what is widely referred to as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), although not all torture survivors fulfil the criteria for PTSD, showing only a few of the symptoms. The most frequent mental symptoms: * Anxiety * Sleeping difficulty * Nightmares

* Irritability * Bursts of anger * Weakened impulse control * Depression Damage is characterised by the torture methods used. Some acute symptoms will appear immediately after the torture, e.g. wounds, fractures, burns, concussions, damage to nerves and vessels etc. Furthermore, sexually transmitted illnesses and other infections may occur. At a later stage, the survivor often experiences chronic muscle and joint pain resulting from fractures as well as nerve pain. Other typical longer term injuries include reduced mobility, dental damage and impaired hearing. Problems with the sexual function and brain function are also common.

Rebuilding Sara Sara was burned with cigarettes and hot knives, beaten on her arms and genitals, sexually harassed, raped and beaten unconscious. Sara’s only crime against the regime of Saddam Hussein was being Kurdish and that her father and younger brother were political activists. After the sudden disappearance of her father and brother from an Iraqi prison, the entire family were forced to move to a camp near Baghdad where Sara was arrested and imprisoned, spending long periods in darkness and complete isolation. The torture and humiliation continued until she was suddenly released and left on the street – bruised and in the clothes she was wearing the day she was arrested. She fled with her two small children and ended up in Denmark where she tried to integrate herself into society. Battling depression she became aggressive and disillusioned. Finally she found RCT, where she is in rehabilitation and looking forward to a better life for herself and her family.

Our work relies on your support. Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims [RCT] Borgergade 13 · P.O. Box 2107 · 1014 Copenhagen K · Denmark Tel: +45 3376 0600 · Fax: +45 3376 0510 · Mail: · Web: Contributions: IBAN: DK06 3000 4310 8212 09 · SWIFT: DABADKKK · Account number: 3001 4310821209 (Danske Bank)

Rebuilding People  

An introduction to RCT, the cause and the organization

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