Officially established by the IRCT in 2012 as part of its mission to be an international hub of expertise on torture investigation and documentation, IFEG is an organisation of 42 distinguished experts from 23 countries specialised in the evaluation of torture and ill-treatment cases.
IFEG members have a range of medical and mental health specialisations, including in medicine, psychology, psychiatry, pathology, forensic anthropology, and psychotherapy. Together they represent over 600 years of experience and have examined more than 40,000 victims of torture. Through the IRCT’s Istanbul Protocol Programme Coordinator, IFEG members undertake medico-legal evaluations, examining persons who allege they have suffered torture.
By applying the standards set out in the Istanbul Protocol the agreed international standard for investigating and documenting torture, and as recognised independent experts, the reports produced by IFEG stand as the best possible evidence for whether an allegation of torture is true or not. This is an essential step in the process of achieving healing and justice for survivors, as States who torture almost always seek to cover up and deny it has occurred.
Allegations to Evidence
You’ve seen CSI. You’ve binged Netflix. But do you really know what forensics experts do? Join one of the members of IFEG, Dr Djordje Alempijevic, and learn how IRCT’s global network of doctors use their expertise to turn allegations of torture into evidence for prosecuting the perpetrators.
IFEG members have testified in court and other forums over 4,500 times and have conducted some 2,000 trainings on torture and the Istanbul Protocol, including for IRCT member centres, other civil society organisations, national human rights commissions, courts and investigative authorities, and other stakeholders.
IFEG members also share knowledge on forensic documentation and on the effects of torture where the current medical or scientific literature is lacking by publishing expert statements or advice to governments and international organisations. Together IFEG members have produced over 50,000 medico-legal reports on both torture and other issues and have authored or edited over 2,400 scientific articles and books on forensics.
Anal Examinations in Cases of Alleged Homosexuality
“Forcibly conducted anal examinations have no medical or scientific value in determining whether consensual anal intercourse has taken place; these examinations are inherently discriminatory and, in almost all instances, result in significant physical and mental pain and suffering. It is our opinion that forcibly conducted anal examinations constitute cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and may amount to torture depending on the individual circumstances.”
“Conversion therapy has no medical or scientific validity. The practice is ineffective, inherently repressive, and is likely to cause individuals significant or severe physical and mental pain and suffering with long-term harmful effects. It is our opinion that conversion therapy constitutes cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment when it is conducted forcibly or without an individual’s consent and may amount to torture depending on the circumstances, namely the severity of physical and mental pain and suffering inflicted.”
“Hooding and other equivalent practices are intentional forms of sensory deprivation which constitute cruel, inhuman and de- grading treatment or punishment and should be prohibited in interrogations and detention. When hooding is practiced in conjunction with other acts that may be considered cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, it may constitute torture. In our experience, hooding is very often practiced in combination with other methods of abuse and typically, under such circumstances, constitutes torture.”
“Virginity examinations are medically unreliable and inherently discriminatory, and, in almost all instances, when conducted forcibly, result in significant physical and mental pain and suffering. It is our opinion that forcibly conducted virginity examinations have no clinical or scientific value and constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and may amount to torture depending on the individual circumstances.”
IFEG works wherever torture occurs and needs to be addressed. Sometimes, an intervention by IFEG results in a relatively quick outcome, as in the famous case of the British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who was released from detention in Iran in the wake of an IFEG report that found her conditions there amounted to torture. In other cases, such as IFEG’s work with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a strategic litigation against the practice of virginity testing, which is still pending a decision after 9 years. Below is a selection of IFEG Casework, arranged by country, which will be updated with developments as they occur.
Forensic expert analysis of 50 cases of alleged torture and ill-treatment of persons detained during crackdown on protesters in Belarus. Published report found “compelling evidence” of “a coordinated policy and practice of systematic torture and ill-treatment”. For more see here.
Following review of evidence of violence against protesters, IFEG expert opinion concluded live ammunition was being used on and had caused the deaths of individuals, and that police weapons such as teargas and kinetic impact projectiles were being misused, causing death and severe injury. The opinion supported a report by Human Rights Watch that confirmed 34 deaths had occurred during the crackdown. Also reviewing case of alleged extrajudicial killings of civilians by Colombian military in crackdown on FARC rebels.
Providing analysis of evidence to support protesters in collaboration with Human Rights Watch.
Review of evidence in case of suspected torture of Egyptian economist Ayman Hadhoud requested by Human Rights Watch, the New York Times, and Dignity. Review of evidence that substantiated allegations of an attempted cover up by Egyptian authorities of extra judicial killings over five-year period, published in a report by Human Rights Watch.
Submitted review of evidence of suspected torture supporting report by Human Rights Watch.
Iran / UK:
Following a request from Redress, a UK-based NGO pursuing legal claims for survivors of torture, in October 2020 two members of IFEG conducted a two-day online examination of British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, held in prison in Iran since 2016. The report concluded Nazanin’s condition was “highly consistent” with her allegations of torture and ill-treatment during her imprisonment. In March 2021, Redress delivered the full 77-page medico-legal report to the UK’s then foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, who had previously referred to Nazanin’s experience in Iranian prison as an “ordeal”. By May 2021 Raab was referring to Nazanin’s treatment as torture. IFEG’s conclusions were also extensively reported in leading UK media, including The Times, the BBC, the Independent , and The Week, and informed an editorial in The Times, widely seen as the British establishment newspaper of record, calling for British government to redouble efforts to secure Nazanin’s release. Nazanin was released in March 2022.
Statement submitted to Israel Prison Service and Ministries to protest prolonged solitary confinement since April 2019 of an individual suffering from schizophrenia. Israel’s Supreme Court ruled the prisoner should be kept in solitary confinement as he is a danger to himself and others.
Submitted medico-legal report to support case filed by Jus Cogens before UN Committee Against Torture, European Court of Human Rights, and other potential cases against Belgium, Spain and Morocco over alleged torture of Belgian-Moroccan man Ali Aarass, following his extradition from Spain to Morocco where he was tortured to force a confession.
Conducted evaluations of three victims of the 2020 Lekki Toll Gate massacre by military during a protest against Nigeria’s now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) who suffer serious PTSD after the incident and then subsequent threat and attacks. Evidence has been submitted to the ECOWAS Court of Justice.
Evidence being prepared to support a strategic litigation case against the practice of forced anal examinations in Uganda with local civil liberties group Chapter Four.
Providing advice to local NGOs and the Ukrainian investigative authorities charged with investigating war crimes and other human rights abuses.
Review of photographic evidence of the bodies of residents of Apure state on the border with Colombia killed by security forces, who alleged the six dead were “neutralised” as “terrorists”. IFEG concluded that the bodies had likely been moved, the weapons in the photographs staged, and that one person had been shot at close range. The IFEG opinion was central to the report by Human Rights Watch.