Our People

IRCT Executive Committee

Lela Tsiskarishvili

President

Lela Tsiskarishvili is the Executive Director of the Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medial Rehabilitation of Torture Victims – GCRT. She works domestically and internationally with civil society organisations, human rights defenders and civil activists on organisational development, staff care, prevention of professional burnout, stress management and integrated security. She holds a degree in Psychology and is certified as clinical, team and organisational supervisor. Lela is the founding member of Georgian Society of Psychotrauma, a member of the European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. Lela contributed to the start of Masters Program in Mental Health at Ilia State University, She teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at Tbilisi State University and is a founding board member of Human Rights House Tbilisi.

Cristian Urbalejo

Vice-President

Cristian Urbalejo Luna is a Social Worker and Philosopher. He currently lives in one of the few native towns south of Mexico City. He is the executive co-coordinator of the Collective against Torture and Impunity (CCTI). The CCTI is in charge of fighting torture and impunity in Mexico through medical-legal documentation of torture based on the Istanbul Protocol, providing comprehensive rehabilitation to torture survivors, and providing psychosocial support to relatives of the forced disappeared in the state of Guerrero. The organization has collaborated with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the World Organization Against Torture, the UN Office of the High Commissioner, Amnesty International, the Center for Justice and International Law, and participated in the session of the Committee Against Torture for Mexico in 2019. Mr. Urbalejo has participated in community projects with indigenous communities in the construction of processes of autonomy through the use of community radio stations in native languages as well as strengthening community identity through decolonial narratives. He has taught courses at the National University of Mexico on models of social intervention, critical social work, human rights and epistemology.

Khalida Salimi

Executive Committee Member

Khalida Salimi, a human right activist, was awarded Presidential award as human Rights defender in 2011. One of the pioneers of the Anti-torture movement in Pakistan, she has been awarded the distinguished “Order of the British Empire” (OBE) for her work for women and children rights at national, regional and global level. This recognition was graced on 27 November 2006. In 2004 Khalida Salimi got the UN Recognition Award for her work against torture. Khalida Salimi has also been awarded the Freedom Fighters Prize for 2006 by the PL Foundation of Denmark. She is a trained sociologist, who has served torture survivors since 1987, and is committed to a multi-disciplinary approach to the rehabilitation of torture survivors in a field largely dominated by doctors and lawyers.

Khader Rasras

Executive Committee Member

Khader Rasras is a human rights activist, who has worked as senior clinical psychologist since 1990 at TRC Palestine. He has published on group psychotherapy, EMDR, Psychological Testing, and grief. He has experience in capacity building and training of local and international organizations. He has extensive governance experience with human rights and mental health institutes. He has a BSc. in psychology from the Philippines, higher education at the University College London, thesis in child psychology and projective testing at the Universite Lumiere Lyon II in France, and a second M.A in Human Rights at Birzeit University where he is currently an university lecturer. Khader is active in the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) and the IAGP-International Association of group therapy and psychodrama.

Kathi Anderson

Executive Committee Member

Kathi Anderson serves as an elected member of the IRCT’s Executive Committee. In 1997, Kathi co-founded Survivors of Torture, International (SURVIVORS) located in San Diego, California, USA. SURVIVORS’ mission is to facilitate the healing of torture survivors and their families, educate professionals and the public about torture and its consequences and advocate of the abolition of torture. She served as SURVIVORS’ first board chair before becoming its executive director. She is also a co-founder of the U.S.-based National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs. She has extensive experience in health care, human rights, refugee resettlement and higher education. She received from San Jose State University her M.A. in Counseling and from the University of the Pacific her B.A. in International Relations. Kathi is the recipient of many awards, most recently from American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties, American Bar Association Immigration Justice Project and the United Nations Association, San Diego.

Peter Kum Che Mebeng

Executive Committee Member

Peter Kum Che is the Executive Director the Trauma Centre Cameroon, a position he has held for 20 years. Peter is a graduate from University of Yaounde II with a post graduate degree in Law. Peter has founded national networks or acted as liaison officer for Amnesty International, The Africa Human Rights Defenders Network and The Civil Peace Service. He has conducted co- chaired, facilitated, and moderated, training seminars on Human rights, Care for Caregivers, Peace and religiosity, Risk Control, Professional Vitality, and Project Management throughout Cameroon. Peter is a key figure in the Cameroon civil society. He is currently Chair of the Presbyterian Congregation in Yaounde. In his leadership roles, Peter focuses on peace and security, transparency, the fight against corruption,and promoting accountable leadership.

Robyn Smythe

Executive Committee Member

Robyn Smythe is passionate about delivering high quality services to survivors of torture and trauma and has been doing so for over 20 years, latest as Director of Survivors of Torture and Trauma Rehabilitation and Assistance Service (STTARS) who assists 1500 asylum seekers and people from refugee backgrounds annually. She is committed to work collaboratively across organisations. Robyn is an active member of the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia and the Forum of Australian Services to Survivors or Torture and Trauma. With qualifications in Social Work, Disability Studies and Grief, Loss and Trauma Counselling ,Robyn spent a number of years working closely with the CEO of (OSSTT) to set up the Overseas Services to Survivors of Torture and Trauma to ensure that asylum seekers sent by the Australian Government to Manus Island and Nauru had access to the necessary torture and trauma service.

IRCT Council

(elected in 2020 for the period 2020-2024)

Asia

Suraj Koirala, Nepal
Regional Representative

Khalida Salimi, Pakistan
ExCom Member

Europe

Metin Bakkalci, Turkey
Regional Representative

Lela Tsiskarishvili, Georgia
IRCT President

Latin America

Cristian Urbalejo Luna, Mexico
IRCT Vice-President

Angelina Ospina, Colombia
Regional Representative

Middle East and North Africa

Suzanne Jabbour, Lebanon
Regional Representative

Khader Rasras, Palestine
ExCom Member

North America

Lin Piwowarczyk, US
Regional Representative

Kathi Anderson, US
ExCom Member

Pacific

Jorge Aroche, Australia
Regional Representative

Robyn Smythe, Australia
ExCom Member

Sub-Saharan Africa

Taiga Wanyanja, Kenya
Regional Representative

Peter Kum Che Mebeng, Cameroon
ExCom Member

Advisory Board Conveeners

Hana Hamzeh
Communications 

Michael Brune
Health

Sebnem Korur Fincanci
Research

Mihiri Ferdinando
Resources and Sustainability

Pradeep Agrawal
Compliance

The IRCT Council Meeting – 04 June 2020

International Secretariat

Lisa Henry

Secretary-General

Lisa is responsible for visionary leadership of the IRCT global secretariat team as they support the 160 member centers in the implementation and achievement of the strategic objective of the IRCT: Life after torture: improved quality of life for torture victims worldwide. Lisa’s responsibilities include ensuring financial sustainability, strong membership engagement and results and a well-run organization with good staff welfare. Lisa is primary liaison with the Executive Committee of the IRCT. Before coming to IRCT Lisa had a distinguished career that started as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger and includes more than 20 years as a manager of humanitarian response. Her major focus areas have been the humanitarian principles and transparent accountability to stakeholders. She has a Bachelor of Arts from University of Michigan and a Master of Science, Non-Profit Management, from the Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy at the New School for Social Research in New York City. Lisa is mom to 4 children and married to Hans.

Asger Kjaerum

Director of Advocacy

Asger is responsible for designing and implementing the IRCT’s advocacy strategy to make the right to rehabilitation a reality for torture victims around the world. He oversees a broad spectrum of interventions to promote change in public policy and legislation and supports proper investigation and documentation of torture at the national, regional and international level. Asger is regularly invited to speak on issues related to torture victims’ rights and best practices to eradicate torture, development of advocacy capacities and effective engagement with UN mechanisms. As a Danish jurist, he has thirteen years of experience working with implementation of human rights norms at the international and national level.

Jens Bie Anderson

Director of Operations

Jens manages a broad portfolio of IRCT’s operational fields, from finance to Human Resources, IT to fundraising, and also strategically contributes to the work of the organisation. Core to Jens’ role is ensuring IRCT’s long-term financial sustainability through budget planning, analysis and review, oversight of financial processes, internal and external reporting, project finances, and ensuring donor compliance. Jens brings a wealth of experience, and a certain military discipline to the job; before joining IRCT he was Senior Business Consultant for Columbus IT and Finance Manager for Danish Red Cross, and a number of private Danish companies, as well as a long-serving Sergeant at the Danish Artillery Reserves. Being a classic over achiever, Jens is also studying for an extra degree in History at Copenhagen University, when he’s not also volunteering at the Danish branch of the Youth For Understanding exchange programme.

Inge Frandsen

Finance Officer

As Finance and Procurement Officer, Inge is responsible for managing the financial reporting on IRCT projects and arranging flights for IRCT staff as well as IRCT members and other stakeholders participating in the organisation’s various project activities. Inge also manages IRCT procurements and other staff and admin related tasks. Inge has more than 25 years’ experience within accounting and administration in an international environment and holds a Certificate in Business Language from Copenhagen Business School.

James Lin

Istanbul Protocol Programme Coordinator

James leads the design and delivery of the IRCT’s global programme to promote implementation of the Istanbul Protocol (UN Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment). His work includes advancing knowledge on the health-based consequences of torture, building the capacity of civil society on health-based and forensic documentation, and using that evidence and knowledge in advocacy and strategic case interventions. James also coordinates the activity of the Independent Forensic Expert Group (IFEG). James comes to us with considerable field experience in both conflict and post-conflict settings. Prior to the IRCT, he was Head of the Bangkok Regional Office for Southeast Asia of FIDH (the International Federation for Human Rights). In addition, he has served as Country Director for the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI)’s offices and programmes in both Nepal and Thailand. He also worked for many years in Bosnia-Herzegovina with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). James is a licensed attorney and holds a Juris Doctorate (Hons) and a Bachelors in Anthropology. He is also a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam, where he conducts research on the practices of NGOs in acquiring evidence and producing knowledge. In addition, James is an Adjunct Professor at National Chiao Tung University (Taiwan), where he teaches transitional justice and business and human rights, and a Lecturer in Law at Richardson Law School University of Hawaii Manoa.

Berta Soley

Knowledge Development Focal Point and Torture Journal Editor Associate

Berta holds a Bsc. in Social Education at Ramón Llull University and a Msc. in Development and International Relations at Åalborg University. Besides that, she is currently finishing her Postgraduate in Dynamic Psychology on Gender-Based-Violence and her Masters on Social Innovation. Berta has experience working within human rights and international development and cooperation at the UNDP Samoa and other NGOs, in the areas of M&E and project management. She later on combined this experience with academia, education and research at several universities, where she worked as a professor and coordinated the teaching quality unit, as well as the research and international relations departments. Berta is well-experienced with journal publishing processes, as well as the development of e-learning platforms. Furthermore, with a great interest in the prevention and response to violence against women, she conducted research on gender studies and specially gender-based violence.

Andrea Molgaard

Student Assistant

Andrea is a student assistant at IRCT where she assists in handling administrative tasks.
She is currently studying political science at the University of Copenhagen.
In the past, Andrea has been engaged in a trainee-programme abroad where she gained transnational work experience.

Hugh Macleod

Communications Lead

Hugh is responsible for producing IRCT’s multimedia content to meet the communications goals of its new Strategy. Hugh’s work seeks to engage survivors, and those who support them, to speak about their experiences, and to explain to IRCT’s diverse audience the role of the organisation and its member centres as global leaders in the documentation and rehabilitation of torture. Before joining the IRCT, Hugh qualified as a barrister at the English Bar having completed a Master’s in International Human Rights Law at Oxford University. He is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Law and was formerly a Middle East correspondent for the British and American press based in the region for a decade.

Carmen Araujo

Project Associate

As Project Associate, Carmen will be working with the Tech for Democracy project, where she will support the development of IRCT’s Anti-Torture Database. Carmen holds a master’s degree in social work and studied in Spain, Italy, and the UK. Prior to joining the IRCT, she worked as a statutory social worker in Scotland in the area of health and social care. Carmen also has a background in community education.

Mohamed Rashwan

Assistant to the Secretary-General

At IRCT, Mohamed supports the Director of Operations and the Secretary-General in tasks related to day-to-day management, including fundraising efforts and outreach, member engagement and knowledge development activities as well as various administrative and technical duties. He has been actively engaged in civil society for the last half a dozen years, both nationally and internationally, in fields such as charity, community engagement, advocacy and activism. He is currently serving on two boards in Danish based community organizations.

Sumaya Maskin

Grants & Administrative Assistant

At IRCT, Sumaya will be working in relation to local partners & reporting processes as a support to staff across all teams, as well as to support key secretariat planning processes, support others to keep deadlines, and keep things moving forward in an engaged and helpful way with members from around the globe. Sumaya holds a degree in Arabic literature at Aleppo University, Syria. Before joining the IRCT she worked at the University of Aleppo as a finance office and supplies administrator than 15 years.

Roberto Frifrini

Advocacy Officer

Roberto has been working in the human rights field for over ten years, spent roughly five years working in human rights projects in Turkey with the Human Rights Agenda Association, before turning more towards UN, EU and domestic advocacy work as Turkey, Algeria and Shrinking Space Programme Officer with EuroMed Rights in Paris and Brussels. Roberto holds an M.A. in International Relations and European Studies from the Institute d’études européennes from the University Paris and he’s currently pursuing a PhD at the Centre d’études juridiques of the same University. Besides English, he speaks French, Italian and Turkish.

Josina Bothe

Intern

At IRCT Josina supports the IRCT’s Istanbul Protocol implementation activities. Josina holds an LLM in International Law and Human Rights and studied in the Netherlands, Taiwan, and Jerusalem. Currently, Josina is finishing her second master’s degree in Near Eastern Languages. In the past, Josina has been engaged in youth and language exchange programs.

Maeva Rene-Barry

Advocacy officer

Maeva is a dynamic professional passionate about human rights and the fight against torture. In the past years, she has worked with the World Organisation Against Torture, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Interpeace. She has acquired legal research and analysis skills and has developed strong relationships with different stakeholders, allowing her to implement IRCT’s advocacy strategy toward UN and EU institutions. She has studied and worked in Paris, The Hague, Abidjan, and Geneva. Maeva holds a Bachelor of Laws, an M.A in Public International Law (Pantheon-Assas University), and an M.A. in Transitional Justice, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law (Geneva Academy). She is Franco-Guinean and speaks French, English, and Spanish. During her free time, she is into swimming, hiking, and board games.