About the IRCT

We are a global network of civil society organisations and independent experts who support survivors of torture to heal and rebuild their lives through rehabilitation, including medical, psychological, legal and social support. We also produce forensic evidence, publish academic research, and fight for justice.

Born from a collaboration between Danish doctors and human rights groups in the 1970s, today IRCT is the world’s largest membership-based organisation specialising in the treatment and documentation of torture. Operating at the intersection of medicine and law, we currently have 156 member centres in 76 countries across every region of the world, staffed by around 4,000 professionals – doctors, psychologists, lawyers, social workers, physiotherapists, and others. 

IRCT’s Torture Journal is the world’s leading academic source for peer-reviewed research and debate from the medical and legal frontiers of torture rehabilitation and prevention. Our Independent Forensic Expert Group (IFEG) is a unique organisation of 42 distinguished experts from 23 countries specialised in the forensic investigation and documentation of torture and ill-treatment. 

Backed by a Secretariat in Copenhagen and an office in Brussels, each year IRCT collectively supports some 60,000 torture survivors to rebuild their lives, and we engage in over 12,000 advocacy interventions, including at the UN in Geneva and with regional and national courts, to promote justice and reparations for victims, and to pressure States to end torture.

Our History

It all began with an idea that had never been tried before. 

In 1974, Dr Inge Genefke and three other Danish doctors responded to a call from Amnesty International asking for help diagnosing torture survivors recently arrived as refugees to Denmark from Chile and Greece.

The aim was to dissuade medical colleagues from collaborating in torture, and to document torture that had been inflicted using modern techniques, which left few visible traces. What became known as Amnesty International’s Danish Medical Group was the first such example of doctors working directly within an international human rights organisation.

This marriage of medicine and law – in other words, forensic evidence – for the purposes of healing and justice laid the foundations for what became IRCT’s global network.

Dr Inge Genefke

The Call that Started the IRCT

By 1981, Dr Genefke, along with Dr Ole Rasmussen and others, had founded the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT), in Copenhagen. With torture rehabilitation centres opening around the world, there was a need to gather the diverse and growing anti-torture sector under one umbrella, to harness its potential for collective action and knowledge sharing. So in 1985, the IRCT was born as an international membership organisation, with a mandate to articulate the voice and aspirations of its global network. At the same time the RCT became Denmark’s leading national anti-torture organisation Dignity, and also the IRCT’s first member centre.


IRCT’s Pioneers of Rehabilitation

Torture Journal was first published in 1991 as a newsletter for IRCT’s growing number of members to share with each other best practices on treating torture survivors. With funding from the Danish government that supported the foundation of new rehabilitation centres, by 2005 the IRCT had 100 members, rising to over 160 by 2020.

From an initial one-year project involving four Danish doctors and a few dozen torture survivors, the IRCT has evolved over five decades to become an internationally recognised global movement, combining professional medical and legal expertise with the diversity and dedication characteristic of front-line human rights defenders working in very different, and often very challenging contexts, around the world. “The work is not easy. You will need a lot of energy,” Dr Genefke told IRCT’s Secretary General Lisa Henry shortly after her appointment.

Inspired by our founder’s own boundless energy and resilience, and the resilience we encounter in our members and the survivors they treat, the IRCT today acknowledges the challenge we face and honours our history in a commitment to collaboration captured in our central advocacy message: #UnitedAgainstTorture.

Our Vision

Is a world without torture. We work to ensure that individuals and communities subjected to torture receive the rehabilitation and justice, as well as other reparations, that they deserve and are entitled to.

Our Mission

Is to ensure that torture victims everywhere are able to access appropriate rehabilitation services. We are equally dedicated to fighting impunity, advancing access to justice, and preventing torture from reoccurring.