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The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), is an independent, international health professional organisation that promotes and supports the rehabilitation of torture victims and works for the prevention of torture worldwide.

Based in Denmark, the IRCT is an umbrella organisation for 130 rehabilitation centres and programmes worldwide who treat and assist torture survivors and their families. The IRCT seeks to strengthen the capacity of these centres and programmes through training and technical assistance. By rendering these organisations' work visible to the international community of health professionals, international organisations, donors and the general public, the IRCT facilitates collaboration in the field and contributes to development towards a world without torture.

Skilled professionals at the IRCT rehabilitation centres and programmes provide treatment for an estimated 100,000 survivors of torture every year. Victims receive multidisciplinary support including medical and psychological care and legal aid. The aim of the rehabilitation process is to empower torture survivors to resume as full a life as possible.

The IRCT strives to promote a world that values and accepts shared responsibility for the eradication of torture. In support of this vision, the IRCT:

- raises awareness of the rehabilitation needs of torture victims,
- promotes and support the establishment of treatment facilities around the world,
- works for the prevention of torture and an end to impunity,
- documents the impact and consequences of torture, and
- works to increase funding for rehabilitation centres and programmes worldwide.

The IRCT also works in partnership with governments, human rights organisations, health professional organisations and intergovernmental organisations.



The medical response to the problem of torture began in 1973 with the launch of a campaign by Amnesty International (AI) to help and diagnose torture victims. At this time, very little was known about torture methods or the physical or psychosocial consequences for torture victims.

The first AI group to start this work was founded in Denmark in 1974 and consisted of four voluntary doctors. This group was part of a network of some 4,000 medical doctors from 34 countries worldwide.

It quickly became evident that, in addition to documenting cases of torture for use in potential legal proceedings, it was also critical to identify methods to help treat and rehabilitate victims of torture.

This resulted in the establishment in 1978 of the first medical international working group to address the rehabilitation of torture victims, which held the first international medical seminar on torture, Violations of Human Rights - Torture and the Medical Profession, in Athens, Greece.

In 1979, members of the Danish medical group obtained permission to admit and examine torture victims at Copenhagen University Hospital, in Denmark. Three years later, in 1982, the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT) was founded in Copenhagen by Dr. Inge Genefke, MD, as an independent institution with its own premises.

In response to a growing need for global support and assistance in the rehabilitation of torture victims, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims was founded in 1985, initially as the international arm of the RCT, and, from 1997, as an international and independent organisation.

IRCT's 20th anniversary 2005

Needless to say, torture never calls for celebration. However, 2005 called for a celebration of the IRCT which reached the milestone of 20 years of work against torture and for reparations and redress to its victims. Since the beginning new rehabilitation centres have been established in every region of the world and the fight against torture has been strengthened considerably. Approximately 100,000 victims have received treatment each year at one of the centres in the IRCT global network.

The anniversary was celebrated in Elsinore, Denmark, at the most famous Danish castle, Kronborg - known from Shakespeare's “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”. The old medieval chapel and the spectacular Great Hall offered an exquisite atmosphere for an event of this character; the commemoration of the victims of torture and the celebration of the achievements of the IRCT movement.

Around 300 participants - among these ambassadors from any region in the world, representative of the Danish royal family, politicians, officials, donors, council members and IRCT staff - enjoyed the spectacular event which had its culmination in the Great Hall where a musical programme specially composed for the event by Danish musician Palle Mikkelborg was presented by colourful and exiting performers.

A book telling the history of the IRCT through personal tales and testimonies of the members of the organisation written by Fabian af Petersens was presented at the anniversary event. The book is available from the IRCT website for download as a PDF file (4.5 mb).

During the days prior to the anniversary, the Council of the IRCT held its annual meeting in Elsinore. At this meeting a panel discussion was held. Among the panellists was UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Manfred Nowak, addressing how the so-called war on terrorism affects the fight against torture.


The IRCT comprises four bodies: the General Assembly, the Council, the Executive Committee, and the General Secretariat.

General Assembly

The IRCT General Assembly is to meet every three years and comprises accredited rehabilitation centres and programmes worldwide. The General Assembly provides a forum in which representatives of rehabilitation centres and programmes, and others working in related fields, may facilitate and press forward the global work against torture.

The first IRCT General Assembly was conducted as a Written General Assembly on 16 June - 6 July 2003. All rehabilitation centres and programmes which are accredited with the IRCT were eligible to participate in the General Assembly, the forum in which the IRCT Council is elected.

A total of 94 accredited rehabilitation centres and programmes participated in the 2003 IRCT Written General Assembly.

Council and Executive Committee

According to the IRCT Statutes and Bylaws, the IRCT Council is elected by the General Assembly and comprises up to 30 members, 27 representing rehabilitation centres and programmes worldwide, and three independent experts. The Council is the principal policy making and advisory standard-setting body of the IRCT, and includes the seven members of the Executive Committee.

The allocation of seats to the IRCT Council by region is as follows:

  • Europe – 7 seats
  • Asia – 4 seats
  • North America – 2 seats
  • Latin America – 4 seats
  • Sub Sahara Africa – 4 seats
  • Middle East and North Africa – 3 seats
  • Pacific – 2 seats
  • Independent experts – 3 seats
  • Country of domicile of the IRCT General Secretariat (Denmark) – 1 seat.

General Secretariat

The General Secretariat, based in Copenhagen, Denmark, is the operational body of the IRCT, responsible for the management and implementation of the IRCT's policies and programmes in support of the rehabilitation of torture victims and the prevention of torture worldwide.

The General Secretariat consists of the Office of the Secretary-General, Administration and Finance Unit, Communications Unit, Programme Unit, and the Brussels Liaison Office.

See also

External links

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