Our People

IRCT Executive Committee

Suraj Koirala

President

Mr. Suraj Koirala has been affiliated with Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Nepal (TPO Nepal), Nepal’s leading psychosocial/mental health NGO; on mental health research and programs. Currently, he has the position of Technical Advisor, wherein he assists senior management with organizational development, resource mobilization, and quality assurance by offering technical advice and support.
In his capacity as Executive Manager of TPO Nepal from 2011 to 2018, he led a number of initiatives that focused on promoting mental health, empowering women, preventing human trafficking, providing holistic rehabilitation support to refugees and torture victims affected by conflict, and responding to emergencies and post-disaster situations.
Additionally, he has made an important contribution to the formulation of mental health policies and guidelines that address the MHPSS challenges faced by victims of trafficking, gender-based violence, refugee and the person with psychosocial disability.

Robyn Smythe

Vice-President

Robyn Smythe has been passionate about delivering high quality services to survivors of torture and trauma for over 25 years. Robyn is the Director of the Survivors of Torture and Trauma Rehabilitation and Assistance Service (STTARS), a service in South Australia that assists 1200 people from refugee or refugee like backgrounds annually.

With qualifications in Social Work, Disability Studies and Grief, Loss and Trauma Counselling, Robyn worked in a variety of direct service delivery positions within STTARS before moving into leadership roles.

In her role of Director at STTARS, Robyn has participated in working groups with government and NGO’s to increase access and quality of mental health services for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in South Australia.

Having a strong commitment to working 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.

Kolbassia Haoussou

Executive Committee Member

Kolbassia Haoussou MBE is a torture survivor who came to the UK in 2005 after fleeing persecution in central Africa. He experienced the challenges of being a refugee in Britain, which included immigration detention, homelessness, and mental health issues before receiving treatment for the psychological impact of his torture at Freedom from Torture.
His career began with campaigning and advocating when he co-founded the Survivor Speak OUT (SSO) network in 2006, a network led by survivors, campaigning for survivors. After a short while running, SSO came under the umbrella of Freedom from Torture and Kolbassia found himself employed with Freedom from Torture as SSO Coordinator.
Kolbassia was and has been instrumental in building Freedom from Tortures’ survivor activism and making sure survivors were centred in all aspects of the organisation.
After over 10 years of working at Freedom from Torture in the capacity of SSO Coordinator, Service User Champion and acting Survivor Activism Lead, Kolbassia is now the department head for the organisations newly founded Survivor Empowerment directorate.
In 2019, he became a survivor champion for the UK government’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative and in 2020 received an MBE for his work with survivors.

Angela Ospina

Executive Committee Member

Angela Ospina Rincón, Sociologist. Director of the Psychosocial Care Center -CAPS -Colombia. Experience in identification, formulation, and implementation of projects in areas of human rights, humanitarian emergency, and peacebuilding. Emphasis on attention, self-care, and psychosocial training for torture survivor victims.

Skills in social and political advocacy actions at national and international levels, coordination and articulation of work teams, conflict resolution, strengthening of civil society organizations, and relations with governmental and non-governmental international cooperation entities.

With over 20 years of experience in psychosocial action, her approach encompasses human rights, gender, respect for cultural diversity, and nature.

​​​Yasser Abu Jamei

Executive Committee Member

Yasser Abu-Jamei, a Palestinian Psychiatrist who obtained in 2012 MSc in Clinical Neuropsychiatry (with distinction) from Birmingham. In 2015 he received the award of best Alumnus achievement from the Said Foundation on his work in developing mental health sector in Gaza and the GCMHP crisis response plan after the 2014 war on Gaza. He also received the Alumnus of the year award from the University of Birmingham in 2016 and the Community Resilience Award from Rebuilding Alliance 2021.
Dr Abu-Jamei is a member of the Task Force which developed the National Mental Health Strategy 2015-2019 in Palestine. In 2020, with a group of Palestinian mental health professionals he cofounded the Palestine Global Mental Health Network. He has large Interest in Capacity building programmes, neuropsychiatry, and advocacy and lobbying activities. He is certified as a Trainer of Trainers in the field of supervision and care for caregivers from the Free University of Berlin.
Since January 2014, Dr Abu Jamei is the director general of Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, a leading mental health services provider in Palestine. Representing GCMHP, he is the Co-Lead of the subnational Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Technical Working Group in Gaza Strip.
He recently coauthored few papers that looks into integrating public health and human rights approach into mental health in the Gazan context.

Dinali Fernando

Executive Committee Member

Dinali Fernando, MD, MPH, FACEP is the Executive Director of the Libertas Center for Human Rights at Elmhurst Hospital and an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She graduated from the George Washington School of Medicine/Public Health and completed Emergency Medicine Residency at the Mount Sinai Medical Center. Dr. Fernando has developed the Libertas Center into a multidisciplinary program providing health, social and legal services to torture survivors. Libertas conducts research on and has trained thousands of providers across disciplines on best practices in caring for survivors, and advocates for policy changes to address survivors’ needs.

Dr. Fernando served on the Executive Committee of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs, and on the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s National Capacity Building Advisory Group for Torture Treatment Programs and their Medical Task Force. She has been supported by New York State to study health outcomes among torture survivors, recognized by the Greater NY Hospital Association, and received numerous accolades including the 2018 National Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Humanism in Medicine Award.

Taiga Job Wanyanja

Executive Committee Member

I am Taiga Job Wanyanja, born on January 16, 1965, in Kenya. As a family man, I am married and a father of six children. My academic journey led me to attain a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. As a professional Counseling Psychologist, I am registered with the Kenya Counseling Psychology Association (KCPA), reflecting my commitment to the ethical and professional standards of this vital work.

Currently, I hold the position of Executive Director at the Mwatikho Torture Survivors Foundation, an esteemed organization accredited and recognized as a member by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT). My role involves leading initiatives to support and rehabilitate torture survivors.

IRCT Council

(elected in 2023 for the period 2023-2026)

Asia

Suraj Koirala, Nepal
IRCT President

Khalida Salimi, Pakistan
Regional Representative

Europe

Turkcan Baykal, Turkey
Regional Representative

Kolbassia Haoussou , United Kingdom 
ExCom Member

Latin America

Angelina Ospina, Colombia
ExCom Member

Gautier Hirsch Andres, Bolivia
Regional Representative

Middle East and North Africa

Ameera Abdulkareem Marran Marie, Iraq
Regional Representative

Yasser Abu Jamei​, Palestine
ExCom Member

North America

Leonce Byimana, USA
Regional Representative

Dinali Fernando, USA
ExCom Member

Pacific

Merissa Van Der Linden, Australia
Regional Representative

Robyn Smythe, Australia
IRCT Vice- President

Sub-Saharan Africa

Uju Agomoh, Nigeria
Regional Representative

Taiga Wanyanja, Kenya
ExCom Member

Advisory Board Convenors

Tina Tsomaia
Communications 

Khader Rasras
Health

Martin Hill
Research

Kathi Anderson
Resources and Sustainability

Sana Hamzh
Compliance

The IRCT General assembly Meeting – 25 October 2023

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.

Kristina K. Daineko

Director of Operations

Kristina is responsible for leadership of a broad range of IRCT’s operations, including Finance, HR, and IT, as well as enabling the successful and sustainable support and development of IRCT. This not only means internal financial management, but also building the trust and credibility of IRCT with its global partners and donors, through ensuring transparency and adherence to high ethical standards.
Kristina brings a wealth of experience from Save the Children Denmark, Danish Refugee Council, the Ministry of Housing, Urban and Rural Affairs, as well as the Ministry of Refugees and Integration – where she had several financial, controlling, and audit roles. Her key achievements include establishing strong audit oversight and follow-up, partnering and collaborating with donors, and building capacity within financial planning, monitoring, and compliance in Denmark and in global operations in the Middle East and Europe. Kristina holds a master’s degree in Socio-Economic Planning from Roskilde University in Denmark.

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

On maternity leave from
September 2023 to August 2024

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.

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.

Elçin Türkdoğan Dilbirliği

Sub-granting Officer

Elçin is responsible for the sub-granting process at IRCT. She has a Master’s degree in political science with a thesis on human rights. She has dedicated herself to promoting human rights in Turkey. She has gained a wealth of experience in almost every step of designing and implementing programs and projects in the field of human rights, mainly in the rehabilitation of torture survivors, while working at the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey for 13 years. She has advocated promoting human rights and preventing violations in collaboration with an exceptional team comprising experienced human rights defenders, lawyers, physicians and health workers, academics, and many others in Turkey.

Sara Maria Gomez Lopez

Project Associate

Sara Lopez holds a bachelor’s in social psychology from UNAM Mexico and a master’s studies in educational psychology.
She worked as a human rights advocate in Mexico. She is very active as a social justice in Canada, where she has served as Community Engagement Team Coordinator at the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture since 2018.
Her VAST role supports survivors of torture, refugees, and asylum seekers’ mental health.
Her expertise as an activist is immigration detention in Canada. She is one of the participants in the Welcome to Canada, a multiyear campaign alongside Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. She has been advocating in different forums for better life conditions for asylum seekers in Canada. She identifies as a survivor herself.