02 Oct 2002
IRCT elects new Executive Committee and President

At the annual meeting of the Council of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) earlier in September this year, the first non-European President was elected.

Dr. Bhogendra Sharma, founder and President of the Centre for Victims of Torture (CVICT) in Kathmandu, Nepal, succeeded Dr. Maria Piniou-Kalli, founder and Director of the Medical Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (MRCT) in Athens, Greece. Dr. Piniou-Kalli has been IRCT President since 1998. Dr. Sharma has been a member of the IRCT Council since 1995 and of the IRCT Executive Committee since 2000.

The President will be supported in his new function by the new Vice President of IRCT, Dr. Camelia Doru, Founder and Medical Director of the ICAR Foundation providing medical rehabilitation to torture victims among former political prisoners in three Romanian cities. She became member of IRCT Council in 1997 and has been involved in the global efforts to provide assistance to victims of torture from the very start of the impressive programme she initiated in Romania in 1992. 

Dr. Doru is succeeding Dr. Jorgen Nystrup, President of the RCT Board and Vice President of IRCT since 1998, being the first non-Danish Vice President of the Copenhagen-based international organisation. 

The other members of the new Executive Committee of the IRCT are:

  • Professor Vivienne Nathanson, U.K. representing the World Medical Association
  • Dr. Jim Jaranson, USA, representing the World Psychiatric Association
  • Mr. Abdel Hamid Afana, Director of Training and Education Programme, Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, Gaza City, Palestine
  • Director Niels Krustup, Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims - Jutland, Haderslev, Denmark
  • Ms. Nomfundo Walaza, Psychologist, Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture, Cowley House, Cape Town, South Africa

Dr Bhogendra Sharma said, "The increasing number of centres providing services to torture survivors worldwide has a double advantage: On one hand more survivors in more countries are being assisted - on the other hand more scientific documentation of torture is being gathered. This contributes to the prevention of torture because scientific documentation is a precondition for the effective implementation of international instruments against torture".

Dr. Sharma expresses the hope that friendly governments and other donors will continue to give both new and existing rehabilitation centres worldwide their moral and financial support.

The IRCT was established as an international and independent organisation in 1987. Today, the IRCT promotes and supports the rehabilitation of torture victims and the prevention of torture in collaboration with a global network of more than 200 rehabilitation centres and programmes.

Profiles of the new IRCT Executive Committee members

IRCT President - Dr. Bhogendra SHARMA, MBBS, MSc, 45 years old, president of the Centre for Victims of Torture, Nepal (CVICT), Kathmandu, Nepal. 13 Years of Experience in Torture Rehabilitation. Dr. Sharma founded and built CVICT, Nepal's only NGO in the area of preventing torture and medical/psychosocial rehabilitation of Nepali, Bhutanese, and Tibetan survivors. CVICT is today a leading NGO in human rights in South Asia networking with leading international organisations in the area of preventing torture and rehabilitating survivors; and collaborating with local NGOs and HMG Nepal's ministries of law and justice, home affairs, and health. Dr. Sharma has designed and implemented qualitative and epidemiological research on impact of torture; published in leading journals.

IRCT Vice-President - Dr Camelia DORU MD, 49 years old, licensed as specialist in Intensive Care and Anaesthesiology, actively engaged in the fight for
freedom and democracy in Romania. She provided medical assistance to hunger strikers protesting Communist take- over after the 1989 revolution. In 2003 she became the lead claimant in legal action against the Romanian Presidency and Government demanding public recognition of and a public apology for the injustice done to victims of communism from 1945-1989. More than 40.000 survivors and civil society representatives belonging to different organisations are backing the Trial. 13 years of Experience in Torture Rehabilitation.

Dr Vivienne NATHANSON, MD, 48 years old. 18 years of Experience in Torture Rehabilitation. Dr. Nathanson is a physician now specialising in ethics, education and public health, and responsible for the British Medical Association's work on human rights and ethics. Her current responsibilities include lobbying on all areas of public health, ethics, and health policy. She is an educator, communicator and senior manager, and has been a key player in getting torture prevention and survivor rehabilitation on the agenda of the WMA. Dr. Nathanson has no specific involvement with any individual centres but has worked with UN agencies for many years.

Dr James M. JARANSON, MD Psychiatrist, 55 years old. 20 years of Experience in Torture Rehabilitation. Dr. Jaranson has been principal Investigator at the NIMH-funded epidemiology project surveying torture and violence in Somalis and Oromos in Minnesota, with faculty appointments in the Department of Psychiatry and the Division of Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. He was the first psychiatrist, then Medical Director at the Center for Victims of Torture in Minneapolis from 1985 until 2001. Further Dr. Jaranson has been a board member of the Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture, founder of the International Mental Health Program in the Psychiatry Department of Regions Hospital in St. Paul in 1984, and representative of the United States on the IRCT Council from 1992-2001. He is Editor of Caring for Victims of Torture, and co-Chair of the Section on the Psychological Consequences of Torture and Persecution

Mr Abdel Hamid AFANA, MA PhD in Community Mental Health, 40 years old, Director of Training and Education Department at Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP). 10 years of Experience in Torture Rehabilitation. GCMHP is a non-profit and non-governmental organisation that was established in 1990. GCMHP adopts Community based approach to tackle mental health problems related to trauma, torture and human rights abuse. Dr. Afana, is the driving force for establishing a Regional Institute of Community Mental Health and Human rights, managing and teaching at the postgraduate Diploma in Community mental Health and human rights, which a unique programme in the Middle East. Dr. Afana, is the former head of the international academic board of the postgraduate diploma.

Mr. Niels KRUSTRUP, Social worker, 56 years old, Director of RCT-Jylland. 8 years of Experience in Torture Rehabilitation. Niels Krustrup has been a social worker since 1973. He has 10 years of experience in psychiatric social work and 12 years of experience in the field of training and education. He has been director of RCT-Jylland, a rehabilitation centre covering the region in the southern part of Denmark, since 1985.

Ms Nomfundo WALAZA, Masters in Clinical Psychology, 40 years old, Executive Director of the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture (SATC) in Johannesburg, South Africa. Eight years of Experience in Torture Rehabilitation. Graduated from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Qualified clinical psychologist in 1991. Ms Walaza has been working at the Trauma Centre for nearly 9 years as a counsellor and Director. The Trauma Centre is involved in the counselling and treatment of ex-political prisoners many of whom are torture survivors, plus refugees who escape from wars in other parts of Africa. Member of the group that put together the Istanbul Protocol Manual, member of the Rand/International Society for Traumatic Stress Task Force on International Trauma Training. 

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