Freedom from Torture provides support to adults, young people and children who have survived torture and organised violence. The organisation refers to the survivors it helps as its 'clients'. The vast majority of Freedom from Torture clients are asylum seekers or refugees who have secured their status in the UK.
Torture is defined as:
'Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
Article 1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984)
Since Freedom from Torture was established in 1985, over 50,000 individuals have been referred to the organisation for help. A glance at the range of countries from where many have fled is a reminder that torture is a widespread practice.
In 2013, over 71% of the 1,251 clients referred to Freedom from Torture came from 10 countries: Sri Lanka, Iran, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Pakistan, Turkey, Cameroon, Nigeria, Iraq, and South Sudan.
The majority of Freedom from Torture clients report having been targeted due to their race, ethnic origin, gender, religious, cultural or political beliefs. Political activists and journalists are often selected by the authorities for exercising their freedom of expression and vocalising their opposition to government policies. Many people are tortured during conflicts, where torture is used to instill a climate of fear and to force people to flee. Family members are sometimes targeted simply by association in an effort to get to someone else.
Freedom from Torture also helps the children of torture survivors who have been through great trauma. They may have witnessed violence and abuse or been forced to interpret the stories of their parents to the authorities in the UK, causing them to digest and repeat information which can have a traumatising effect.