Anti-Torture Database

Data is essential to the fight against torture. Not only does it allow individual member centres to better understand the needs of their clients, but it is the evidence base on which members and the IRCT Secretariat advocate with States to prevent torture and heal survivors.

The IRCT collects data in two ways: Centrally, through our annual Global Impact survey with members, conducted by the Secretariat; and dispersed, through individual member centres collecting and storing encrypted data on their own computers using the specially designed Anti-Torture Database (ATD). 

Watch: Using Data to Fight Torture in Uganda

The ATD has been evolving over two decades.

Phase one began in late 1999, when the IRCT launched its Global Torture Victims Information System (GTIS). Phase two began in 2013, with the EU-funded Data in the Fight Against Impunity (DFI) project, an effort to establish standardised clinical record-keeping system in 33 member centres. The result was the Anti-Torture Database (ATD). The subsequent Global Anti-Torture Evidence (GATE) project, phase three, expanded the ATD to a further 10 centres and sought to use the data collected in a range of strategic advocacy initiatives. 

Phase four sees the ATD aligning with the Danish government’s Tech for Democracy initiative, an effort to make digital solutions work for human rights outcomes in a world of increasing autocracy and disinformation.  A grant from Globalt Fokus, the coordinating body for Danish NGOs, has allowed IRCT to upgrade the ATD to allow installation and synchronisation across multiple devices, while personal data of survivors remains encrypted, and so that centres can customise the data points they collect to make it more context specific.

The four member centres leading work on the ATD are:

  • ACTV, Uganda
  • AVVDH, Democratic Republic of Congo
  • TPO, Nepal
  • TRC, Palestine

Following the ATD upgrades, ACTV has been able to input encrypted data from some 2,000 additional torture survivors into their system. This will contribute towards their advocacy capacity by providing securely collected evidence of the ongoing problem of torture in Uganda.

“The Anti-Torture Database is a powerful and evidence-based tool for documentation and for advocacy campaigns against impunity, and for combating torture. The data provided can also be used for improvement of rehabilitation services, to guide research, and to be a voice for the voiceless. It also counteracts denials of perpetrators.”

Khader Rasras, Executive Director, TRC Palestine

“Data can be a blessing and a curse. When done well, it’s the answer to the questions anybody who wants to understand torture ask: How many people are being tortured, where, by who. But done badly, it can be a curse, getting in the way of doctors who may already be overwhelmed, and at risk of being lost, corrupted or stolen, posing a security risk for survivors. We have to be smart about the way we collect data.”

Hugh Macleod, IRCT Secretariat, Copenhagen

“Data provides an evidence base, which helps drive legitimacy and credibility with partners. It also helps make stronger arguments for when we need decision makers to take action. It’s much harder for States to deny violations when they are backed by data.”

Dastan Salehi, Advocacy Officer at PICUM, Brussels
IRCT’s Global Standards on Rehabilitation

Standard 17: Documenting Our Global Impact

Share the results of support to torture victims with the IRCT membership on an annual basis. This will become part of the IRCT’s annual Global Impact Report, which demonstrates to the world our collective impact in the lives of torture victims.