Danish center helps heal wounds left by torture
April 29, 1997
Web posted at: 4:33 a.m. EDT (0833 GMT)
From Correspondent Bill Delaney
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CNN) -- Portraits of the darkest dungeons of the
human heart. Searing imagery of hell on Earth.
No, it's not an art exhibit. It's torture, used by a third of
the world's governments to control and crush their opponents.
"(There was) another method called 'Submarino,' (putting) the
head down in filthy water. Not clean, of course, but water
where you have excrement and vomiting material and blood,"
says Dr. Inge Genefke.
Fifteen years ago, Genefke founded and later became the
secretary-general of the Rehabilitation and Research Center
for Torture Victims in Copenhagen, Denmark. She's devoted her
life to liberating men and women from their worst nightmares
"Torture is a power instrument. The most horrible, the most
efficient and the most destructive power instrument," Genefke
says. "Everybody gives up under torture.
"We are all afraid of torture. I am afraid of being tortured,
of course I am," she continues. "And ... this should be known
much more broadly than it is known. That is what we are
working for -- breaking the silence."
'Not real human beings'
Archana Guha is one of the victims who learned to fight back
against the silence at the center in Copenhagen.
Last year, Guha won an exceedingly rare judgment in a
Calcutta court against the police who tortured her 23 years
ago for having a politically active brother.
"Before, I didn't think that other human beings can do like
this," she says. "For me, they, those persons, torturers,
they were not real human beings. They were to me like as a
After such torture, the healing at the Copenhagen center
emerges slowly. It comes through intensive physical therapy
and talking through the horror, sometimes for years.
"You have to build up trust and confidence, because when you
have been tortured, you feel so humiliated," Genefke says.
"You have no self-esteem afterwards."
Funds needed for more centers
Over the years, the Copenhagen center has treated 1,000
victims, with hundreds more always on the waiting list.
Despite 123 affiliates in 45 countries, thousands still lack
support and help. Despite the worldwide enormity of the
problem of torture, financial support for help is minuscule.
Denmark is the most generous country. Each Dane contributes
about a dollar a year through their taxes. By contrast,
citizens of the United States contribute about half a cent.
The United States' money goes to the United Nations Voluntary
Fund for Torture Victims, but according to Genefke, the
money doesn't go very far.
"You know how many have given so far this year?" Genefke says
of the voluntary fund. "Twenty-four countries. Of 185
(countries). It is appalling."
According to Genefke, $25 million could support sufficient
torture help centers worldwide. Starting a new center
requires about $200,000, but each time a center opens,
Genefke says, it sheds desperately needed light into some of
the darkest nights of the human heart.
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