The work of Freedom from Torture began more than 30 years ago growing out of Amnesty International’s Medical Group. Volunteer health professionals (including some of the most senior specialists in the medical profession) campaigned against violations of human rights and documented evidence of torture.
Operating at first from a hut in the yard of the Amnesty International office, the six founding members of Freedom from Torture - then the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture – under Helen Bamber’s directorship began documenting evidence of torture through provision of consultation for survivors and campaigning against human rights violations. The new organisation was granted charitable status on Christmas Eve 1985 and set out to provide survivors with medical treatment, counselling and therapy and to document evidence of torture. Moving to the National Temperance Hospital in late January 1986, it saw 45 clients that year. The organisation grew quickly, treating a peak of 2,000 clients in one year in the early 1990s. Every space available was used to see clients – even the stairs. It then moved on to premises in Grafton Road in Kentish Town, London. The organisation expanded through the 1980s and 1990s, taking it onwards to fundraise for a place where torture survivors would have a real sense of care and calm. This was 111 Isledon Road, London. It is one of the few purpose-built treatment centres for torture survivors in the world. Following the then Government's dispersal policy implemented in the year 2000, the organisation opened four centres across the UK to offer services to torture survivors living outside of London, and to share its knowledge with practitioners.