Documenting Torture

We use our health based expertise to promote effective documentation of torture and ill-treatment in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol, produce reliable medical evidence of torture so victims can claim reparation and rehabilitation, enhance the understanding of what constitutes torture and ensure that judicial and administrative procedures accommodate the specific needs of torture victims. We work closely with the membership and leading experts in the field of forensic documentation of torture to support individual cases before national, regional and international courts and monitoring mechanisms.

“Mental health practitioners in general can convey to others stories and knowledge in such a way that the listener can identify with the torture victims.”

- Dr. Karen Hanscom

The IFEG, originally created by the IRCT, is the leading resource group of experts from around the world for documentation of torture. The group is a lead actor in promoting production of quality forensic evidence worldwide and it plays an agenda setting role through its highly regarded expert statements on issues pertaining to the role of medical evidence in court proceedings.

As the Secretariat of the IFEG, the IRCT advocates for the group, supports standard setting in the field of forensic documentation and draws on the group to produce Medico-Legal reports (MLRs) and expert opinions for legal cases.

What we do?

Medico-legal Evaluations: We examine alleged torture victims to identify any physical and psychological evidence and document those findings in high-quality reports.

Expert Statements: We share knowledge on forensic documentation and on the effects of torture where the current medical or scientific literature is lacking by drafting and issuing expert statements.

Capacity Building: We promote education, create curriculums, and conduct training to strengthen the ability of independent, state, and civil society actors to investigate and document torture.

Consultation: We provide advice on individual cases as well as on the application and development of laws and policies.

Who we are?

An international hub of expertise: thirty-five preeminent experts from eighteen countries specialised in the forensic investigation and documentation of torture and ill-treatment. Together, we have accumulated over 500 years of experience and have examined more than 18,000 victims of torture. We have dfferent backgrounds and medical and mental health specialisations, but what brings us together is our belief in the importance of investigating torture and documenting its physical and psychological impacts.

IFEG Brochure

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Where we work

We work everywhere torture occurs or needs to be addressed. Since 2009, we have conducted activities in over 40 countries.

Asia: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Thailand,
The Philippines, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan.
Europe: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Israel, Kosovo, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Sweden, The United Kingdom and Turkey.
Latin America:Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.
Middle East and North Africa: Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Tunisia.
North America:The United States of America
Sub Saharan Africa: Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe

As one of the original drafters of the Istanbul Protocol, the IRCT continues to work towards its implementation as an investigation standard at the national level. We work with our members and key international partners to develop and attain global endorsement of an Istanbul Protocol Plan of Action directing states on how to establish effective and independent torture investigations.

Torture victims need reliable evidence to effectively pursue justice and rehabilitation from courts and other complaints procedures. We support torture cases at all levels – domestic, regional and international – by supporting and providing documentation in accordance with the international standards elaborated in the Istanbul Protocol.

We work with local and international experts in torture documentation to ensure that victims can access evidence that will hold up in court and support local actors with challenging flawed evidence presented to dispel allegations of torture.

Documenting torture in Mexico

Yecenia Armenta Graciano was released from a northern Mexico prison on 7 June 2016 and cleared of all charges against her. Four years earlier, after hours of beating, asphyxiation, threats, and rape by the police, she had confessed to the murder of her husband. In court, Yecenia argued that her confession was given under torture. Based on medico-legal reports by by IRCT member Colectivo Contra la Tortura y la Impunidad (CCTI) and the International Forensic Expert Group, the judge rejected the confession as a product of torture and ordered the State Attorney to prosecute her torturers.

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Promoting understanding of PTSD in courts

In 1969, when she was 21, Rasmea Odeh was arrested at night from her home in Ramallah. After twenty-five days of interrogation and alleged torture, including rape, by Israeli military, she confessed to two terrorist bombings in Jerusalem. In court, Rasmea renounced her confession, but was convicted and spent ten years in prison. After immigrating to the United States (U.S.) and obtained citizenship, in 2013, she was charged and convicted of providing false statements on her naturalisation forms because she hadn’t disclosed her past conviction. The IRCT, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and four other organisations, intervened in Rasmea’s case arguing her diagnosed cronic PTSD should be taken into account by the court since PTSD symptoms, such as avoidance and involuntary dissociation, may caused her incomplete disclosure. The case is still pending before the courts.

US Court of Appeals: Rasmieh Odeh must be allowed to submit psychological evidence of torture

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We promote education, create curriculums, and conduct training to strengthen the ability of independent, state, and civil society actors to investigate and document torture. We often provide these trainings in multidisciplinary settings, involving both health and legal professionals.

Enhancing capacity to document torture

Documenting the torture allegations of asylum seekers is crucial to ensuring that their claims are fairly considered. To respond to this issue, in October 2016, IFEG experts facilitated a training by IRCT and its member centre, the Red Cross Treatment Centre
for Persons Affected by War and Torture
in Malmo. Our training sought to improve the way mental health, legal, and medical professionals document torture in Swedish asylum proceedings.

At the end of this training, representatives from the Swedish Red Cross centres decided to form a working group to establish a unified approach to conducting medico-legal evaluations and producing medico-legal reports.

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We share knowledge on forensic documentation and on the effects of torture where the current medical or scientific literature is lacking by drafting and issuing expert statements.

Statement on Anal Examinations in Cases of Alleged Homosexuality

The purpose of this IFEG expert statement is to provide legal experts, adjudicators, health care professionals, and policy makers, among others, with an understanding of: 1) the validity of forcibly conducted anal examinations as medical and scientific evidence of consensual anal intercourse; 2) the likely physical and psychological consequences of forcibly conducted anal examinations; and 3) whether, based on these effects, forcibly conducted anal examinationi constitutes cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or torture.

Statement on Anal Examinations in Cases of Alleged Homosexuality

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Statement on Access to Relevant Medical and Other Health Records and Relevant Legal Records for Forensic Medical Evaluations of Alleged Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The purpose of this IFEG expert statement is to provide legal experts and adjudicators with an understanding of the need for access to all information, including complete medical and other health records, and relevant legal records, as a fundamental part of any forensic medical evaluation of allegations of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Statement on access to relevant medical and other health records and relevant legal records for forensic medical evaluations of alleged torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

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Statement on Virginity Testing

The purpose of this medico-legal statement is to provide legal experts, adjudicators, healthcare professionals and policy makers, among others, with an understanding of the physical and psychological effects of forcibly conducting virginity examinations on femalesii and to assess whether, based on these effects, forcibly conducted virginity examinations constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or torture. This medico-legal statement also addresses the medical interpretation and relevance of such examinations and the ethical implications. This opinion considers an examination to be ‘forcibly conducted’ when it is “committed by force, or by threat of force or coercion, such as caused by fear of violence, duress, detention, psychological oppression or abuse of power, against such person incapable of giving genuine consent.”

Statement on Virginity Testing

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Statement on Hooding

Despite international recognition of hooding as a form of torture and/or ill treatment, there have been a number of recent legal cases in which the use of hooding has been examined. The purpose of this IFEG expert statement is to provide legal experts and adjudicators with an understanding of the physical and psychological effects of hooding and other equivalent forms of sensory deprivation and whether hooding and other equivalent practices may constitute torture and/or CIDT.

Statement on Hooding

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