Our Stories

I was desperate for help. [They] gave me my life back. They made me feel like my life was worth something.

NajibaTorture Survivor

“They are angels to us”: ACTV in Uganda

The African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) in Uganda is small, but their impact is huge. They care for survivors from across the region, providing not only health-based rehabilitation but also restorative justice.

“They showed me that I was human and still mattered.” Watch this video to see how ACTV, in the face of many challenges, continues to find ways to holistically support survivors to rebuild shattered lives.

Gabriel’s story

For Gabriel, a high school essay led to a long imprisonment and severe torture. With the help of the African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims in Uganda, Gabriel was able to rebuild the life that was stolen from him.

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Gabriel is a torture survivor who was able to recover physical and psychological injuries through the rehabilitation program of the African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV). Gabriel was a high school student in Uganda when he travelled to the United States as part of an award for his essay on false economics in Africa. Upon his return to Uganda, he was arrested; charged with treason due to the alleged soliciting of classified information. Gabriel spent the next 27 years in prison. A mere 10 months following his release, he was rearrested by plain-clothes agents from the Ugandan Special Operations Unit. He was asked to sign a confession of a crime that he had not committed. Gabriel refused to sign the confession. Officers then subjected him to a period of vicious torture, which resulted in various bone fractures, loss of teeth and chronic pain, in addition to the psychological trauma that remained.

Gabriel was referred to the African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV). Following an evaluation of Gabriel’s symptoms, ACTV created a rehabilitation programme specific to his needs. He received urgent medical care for his physical injuries, including multiple operations to his limbs and mouth. Gabriel also received intensive psychological counselling and support for legal action in seeking compensation for the torture he endured. The rehabilitation services provided by ACTV have allowed Gabriel to make significant physical and psychological improvements. Gabriel claims the support he received from the centre allowed him to feel less stigmatised. He is currently volunteering at a local organisation in his area.

Sillah’s story

Accused of a crime he didn’t commit, tortured for a confession and imprisoned for 4 years, Sillah emerged from jail a broken man. But with the support of the Independent Medico-Legal Unit in Kenya, Sillah has ‘a second chance at life’.

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Sillah was arrested on suspicion of killing his brother’s wife by the Flying Squad Unit, a ‘proactive’ prevention body of the Kenyan Directorate of Criminal Investigations. Several of his family members had also been arrested for at their rural home in the Murang’a County. The five police stations surrounding the area were unaware of the crime.

Sillah was taken to a remote area and brutally tortured. He faced serious physical injuries to his genitals, face and limbs, as well as psychological trauma. Sillah remained incarcerated with minimal access to medical attention for over four years before his acquittal. Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), an IRCT member centre in Kenya, assessed Sillah following his release and identified urgent psychological and physical rehabilitation needs. Sillah received treatment for PTSD, anxiety and other psychological issues. IMLU also provided medical attention for the physical injuries he sustained and supported his pursuit of legal action to seek compensation for the violation of his rights.

IMLU’s rehabilitation programme has allowed for Sillah to experience significant improvements to his physical and psychological well-being. From his ability to walk to the restoration of his memory, to his return to work, Sillah claims that IMLU’s support gave him a second chance at life.

This story was shared by the Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU) in Kenya.

Salah Ahmad With Kids in Chamchamal

A successful program in Iraq

Salah Ahmad founded the Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights as a way to help tortured and abused women. Starting with just a handful of women, 10 years later they have supported more than 20,000.

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Salah Ahmad, founder of Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights in the region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq, began a rehabilitation initiative that has serviced over 20,000 people in just over 10 years. The rehabilitation centre, which began in the city of Kirkuk, now hosts nine branches of rehabilitation efforts throughout the region. 170 staff members work tirelessly to facilitate rehabilitation services in complex contexts. Increased violence and conflict in the region following the expansion of the Islamic State (ISIS) lead to the habitation of over 18,000 IDPs in the Khanke Refugee Camp, located in Dahuk, a governorate of northern Iraq. Women that had been subjected to sexual torture and violence were in a particularly vulnerable state, requiring specialised and intensive rehabilitation services. Jiyan Foundation opened a branch in which these women could access intensive care while staying in the centre with their families, 300km away from the refugee camp. Women were encouraged to stay a minimum of eight weeks in the facility; a safe space to begin their recovery. Upon their return to camp, Jiyan ensured their access to continuous services. In just over a year, the centre has helped more than 100 women of Khanke Refugee Camp seek the care they are entitled to.