Inge Genefke / Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims

Awarded 1988

Denmark

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

Dr Inge Genefke is a Danish medical doctor who founded the first Amnesty International medical group to help fight torture. She acted in response to Amnesty International’s appeal in 1973 to the medical profession to help fight torture. 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 all over the world.

The need for treatment and rehabilitation then led to the establishment of the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT) in Copenhagen in 1982, with Dr Genefke as medical director. RCT’s objectives were to operate a centre for the rehabilitation of persons who have been tortured (also providing help to such persons’ families) and to conduct and initiate research on torture and the nature and extent of its consequences.

RCT has also instructed Danish and foreign health service personnel in the examination and treatment of persons who have been tortured. The organisation has provided instruction in wider fora to spread knowledge about torture, forms of torture and the possibilities of rehabilitating persons subjected to them. Finally, it has operated an international documentation centre, and through the above activities, contributed to the prevention of torture.

The aim of torture is to destroy a person as a human being, to destroy their identity and soul. It is more evil than murder.

Dr Inge Genefke, 1988 Laureate

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 1981, 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 spread 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.

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 its name in 2012 and now operates as DIGNITY - Danish Institute Against Torture.

Laureate news
Culture and Education