Inge Genefke / Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims

(1988, Denmark)
Honorary Award

...for helping those whose lives have been shattered by torture to regain their health and personality.


In response to Amnesty International's appeal in 1973 to the medical profession to help fight torture, Dr Inge Genefke formed the first Amnesty International medical group in Denmark. At that time no knowledge existed about the destructive influence of torture on the victim's physical and psychological health, so the work started from scratch. The pioneering investigations of Genefke's group resulted in the establishment of more medical groups the world over. The need for treatment and rehabilitation then led, in 1982, to the establishment of the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT) in Copenhagen, with Dr Genefke as medical director.

Contact Details

International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims
Copenhagen Europe Center
Vesterbrogade 149, building 4, 3rd floor
1620 Copenhagen V

IRCT Website

DIGNITY - Danish Institute Against Torture
Bryggervangen 55
2100 Copenhagen Ø



In response to Amnesty International's appeal in 1973 to the medical profession to help fight torture, Dr Inge Genefke formed the first Amnesty International medical group in Denmark. At that time no knowledge existed about the destructive influence of torture on the victim's physical and psychological health, so the work started from scratch. The pioneering investigations of Genefke's group resulted in the establishment of more medical groups the world over. The need for treatment and rehabilitation then led, in 1982, to the establishment of the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT) in Copenhagen, with Dr Genefke as medical director.

The objectives of RCT are:

  • to operate a centre for rehabilitation of persons who have been tortured, and of such persons' families;
  • to instruct Danish and foreign health service personnel in the examination and treatment of persons who have been tortured, and through instruction in wider fora to propagate knowledge about torture, forms of torture and the possibilities of rehabilitating persons subjected to them;
  • to conduct and initiate research on torture and the nature and extent of its consequences;
  • to operate and extend an international documentation centre, and through the above activities to contribute to the prevention of torture.

The rehabilitation programme is based on a holistic treatment emphasising psychotherapy. Because close relatives are also affected whenever a person has been subjected to torture, treatment aims to aid both the survivor and his/her spouse and children.

In 1986, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) was established by RCT as a private, humanitarian, non-political organisation. The most important task of IRCT is to contribute to the establishment and operation of rehabilitation centres worldwide. Several times a year it hosts international training seminars for health professionals, both in Denmark and abroad.

Today, almost 100 centres and programmes in 75 countries provide treatment for thousands of torture victims every year. RCT has assisted in supporting and setting up the majority of these centres, e.g. in Albania, Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, Estonia, Equatorial Guinea, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Kenya, Kuwait, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Ukraine, Uganda and Uruguay ay. At the request of the European Union, IRCT has participated in the establishment of professional assistance to rape victims from the war in former Yugoslavia.

The IRCT cooperates with a range of international agencies and national medical associations. It has also created an international torture documentation network and produced books, articles and films in addition to its quarterly journal.

In 1997, the RCT and IRCT were separated into two independent organisations and IRCT has now become an international umbrella organisation for rehabilitation centres and organisations worldwide. The RCT changed names in 2012 and is now operating as DIGNITY - Danish Institute Against Torture.


Acceptance Speech by Inge Kemp Genefke

December 9th, 1988


Ladies and Gentlemen,

This poem was written by the Danish poet Halfdan Rasmussen and translated by the Danish poet Elsa Gress.

That is what scares the torture victims: The blind indifference of the world. They themselves have not shown blind indifference. That was the reason why they weren tortured. The victims whom we know as strong persons, courageous persons indeed not torture victims but what they themselves want to be called: Torture survivors. Strong and courageous that was why they were tortured.

Today they are honoured by you. With this distinguished award, the Right Livelihood Honorary Award, the Alternative Nobel Prize, you show them respect, you show them dignity. No one deserves it more than they do, no one needs it more profoundly than they do. You recognize their sufferings.

At the same time you show the highest degree of disgust and dislike of the regimes in the world who expose their citizens towards the most hideous, the most atrocious: Torture, and towards those who exercise it.

The value of your support towards the victims of torture is immeasurable. And on behalf of the torture survivors I thank you.

Why should torture survivors be helped? Why should we help torture survivors? I will answer these two questions.

1) Why should torture survivors be helped?

Because they need it. Because their body and mind have suffered atrociously, unbearably, unspeakably. Because torture is the worst, the most hideous thing on earth. Torture is not just hanging for many, many hours by the arms or by the legs, it is not just phalanges, it is not just to have electrodes placed on different parts on the body. It is not just that a person is burnt with cigarettes or with iron bars, is hit and kicked all over, or is tormented until being unconscious.

No, torture is far worse, and it is something which is difficult for us to imagine. Torture is mainly of psychological character. This means that a person is forced to witness the torture of a child or a spouse, of a sister or brother, father or mother, to have to watch helplessly and to have to listen to their screams and crying, and their appeals to stop the torture - and you can do nothing.

This is the worst form of torture. It creates great suffering - and, of course, the torturers know it, and they use it.

Today we know that the most essential purpose of torture is not to gather information and evidence, no, the most essential purpose is the most evil in the world: to break down a personality, to destroy an identity, you could call it: to kill a soul. And to use it is worse than murder.

When a human being has been exposed to torture, of course they have problems afterwards. Psychological problems and physical problems. Their sufferings are feelings of a changed personality, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances with nightmares where they over and again relive their torture. They are fatigued, have headaches, sexual problems, concentration and memory disturbances. They feel totally isolated without self esteem, they have lost confidence in themselves and in the rest of the world.

It is imperative for me to stress the point that we at the RCT consider these problems to be normal reactions from normal human beings reactions at something extremely abnormal perverted: Torture. We do not consider the torture survivors to be patients. On the contrary, we consider them to be what they are. I already mentioned it in the beginning of this speech: Strong, courageous persons exposed to torture, because they were working and fighting for what they believed in.

Well, that was the answer to the question why should torture survivors be helped.

2) Why should we help torture survivors?

This question I want to answer with words from the Danish poet, Elsa Gress. Elsa Cress quotes another Danish poet, Karen Blixen, (whom you will know from some of her most famous books "Out of Africa", and "Babette's feast", which both have been filmed). Karen Blixen was once asked why she had protested against the Kenyan whites' maltreatment of the natives, when in Africa, and she answered without hesitation: I have done that and will do it again, primarily for my own sake!

Elsa Gress continues there is a truth we can and must use today in her words and actions, because: to tolerate without interference, the injustice and maltreatment of the strong towards the helpless minimize ones own humanity and is an intolerable loss for the person that is I, as well as for the species to which I belong. Therefore, Elsa Grass goes on, we should support torture victims with all our will and capacity - for our own sake, as well as for their sake.

There is one more answer to these two questions, why torture survivors should be helped and why we should do it:

We must do it because we can do it. Today we know that we can help the victims. Personally, I think it is a miracle, that people who have been through sufferings worse than hell, can be helped. But thanks to the work already done, thanks to our research, thanks to our courageous colleagues in the Third World countries with whom we are working together, we know that today survivors of torture can be helped to regain their health and strength.

But is it enough just to help? At the RCT we find there are preventive methods in helping survivors of torture. Because in helping them we take the weapon from their torturers. The aim of the torturers were destruction of other human beings. And we have proved that they have not succeeded.

But there is another very important method of prevention. This goes for the medical profession. It is a sad fact, that there are many doctors who act as doctor torturers. We know that today there are more doctors, military doctors, taking part in the torture actions than there are medical and health professionals like us who help victims of torture. We know that present day torture could not be performed on such a scale as it is today, without the complicity of the medical profession.

Thanks to courageous colleagues in medical associations in Uruguay and Chile. Thanks to courageous colleagues around the world living under very difficult conditions, under threat of being torture victims themselves. We have now commenced international work aimed at our colleagues who act as torturers. I wish to mention some of the names of our very courageous colleagues: Dr. Francisco Rivas from Chile. Dr. Gregorio Martirena from Uruguay. Dr. Diana Kordon from Argentina. Dr. Mahboob Mehdi from Pakistan. Dr. June Lopez from the Philippines and the psychologist Elizabeth Marcelino from the Philippines.

There are many more people who should be mentioned. Together with these colleagues and the medical associations in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Nordic Medical Associations, but also medical associations in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands etc., we are now working internationally with the aim of exterminating doctor torturers from all medical associations in the world.

In poetry, the meaning of truth of life, wisdom of life most often is explained in a much clearer, more beautiful and more profound way than I can do it.

Therefore, I want to end my speech with a poem by a Norwegian poet, Arnulf Overland, translated by the Danish poet Elsa Gress and quoted here in the Swedish Parliament.


I want to express my most heartfelt gratitude for the Right Livelihood Award because you did not forget and you did not walk by, the survivors of torture.


An Introduction to the IRCT


FAQs about Inge Genefke

asked in 2005

1. Do you have a job in which everyone would lose his or her smile sooner or later?

No. Rather because of the many highly ethical victims of torture my smile is now after more than 30 years of work warmer and more confident. We know today that we CAN help them. And then of course we should.

2. Is torture on the way to become an accepted instrument of warfare and operations against political enemies again?

Torture is NOT to become an accepted instrument of warfare and operations against political enemies again, no. It has always been at a certain level. The latest development, the war against terrorism makes it more difficult. We know torture creates terrorism. We know torture is a power instrument for many governments. But with all the professional knowledge of torture we have today, I do no think the politicians dare to undertake the slippery way of accepting torture publicly.

3. What is the first step in the rehabilitation of a torture survivor?

To create trust, to show respect, to show you are humble to the great task to assist someone who has gone through the most horrible trauma in the world. To show humanity.

4. Why is it so important to work against torture?

Because torture is the worst trauma, the most effective power instrument against democracy. Because three billion people - half of the population in the world - live in countries, where governments condone torture, instigate torture, and even institutionalize torture. And the governments do this in order to keep power. Because torture victims are courageous people who work for more democracy in the world. People like: honest politicians, honest journalists, union members/leaders, human rights fighters, student leaders, leaders of minority groups. They take these people in, make them down through torture. Because torture is very bad as an information instrument, but very good at destroying the personality of people. And because we can help the people back to a good life.

5. What effect has the Right Livelihood Award had on your work?

Great happiness in the honour of receiving it. Great happiness in meeting the people behind the award: especially of course Jakob von Uexküll - but also his team. More visibility for our work for victims of torture. Great happiness in meeting the other laureates.


Medical work against torture. N Engl J Med, 1980.

Psychotherapy for victims of torture. FE Somnier, IK Genefke. British Journal of

Psychiatry, 1986.

Rehabilitation of torture victims: an interdisciplinary treatment model. J Ortmann, IK Genefke, L Jakobsen. American Journal of Social Psychiatry, 1987.

Torture and its treatment. EF Roth Jr, I Lunde, G Boysen, IK Genefke. Am J Public Health, 1987.

Perspective on the present and the future. Journal of Medical Ethics, 1991.

Torture in the world today. Cape Town: VII International Symposium, 1995.

Torture: a plague to the world-society. IK Genefke, H Marcussen, OV Rasmussen. Journal of the Indian Medical Association, 2001.


Right Livelihood Award Foundation

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