2017: Year in Review

2017 draws to a close, the world remains a hostile place for survivors of torture seeking safety. Despite this, Freedom from Torture has secured hard-won victories with and on behalf of survivors, working to ensure their rights are protected and promoted in the UK and around the world.

We couldn’t do this without your support. To say thank you, we wanted to tell you more about all the different successes you’ve helped us to achieve. 

Joy, a survivor and Freedom from Torture client, also wanted to share a message with you:

Over the last 12 months, events across the world have made life ever harder and more frightening for survivors of torture, from the inauguration of Donald Trump to the “hostile environment” created for refugees by the UK government, ongoing uncertainty and division over the Brexit process, and the ongoing crisis in and around the Mediterranean.

Against this backdrop, your support has enabled Freedom from Torture to fight harder than ever to ensure that the rights of torture survivors are safeguarded and strengthened. Tens of thousands of you have stood alongside survivors, to support their right to rehabilitation, and to speak out with them against torture, and made a real different to thousands of survivors who’ve fled torture in their home countries and sought safety in the UK.

We’ve helped more than 1,000 people from 60 different countries, providing 10,000 therapy sessions and 600 group activities, covering everything from gardening to breadmaking, football and chess.

We’ve held British politicians accountable for making sure those survivors are treated fairly. At the beginning of 2017, an incredible 40,000 people signed a petition backing the findings of our Proving Torture report, which we delivered to the Home Office alongside Tania Mathias MP in February. 

June’s snap General Election saw us call on all political parties to ensure proper protection for refugees, before we led calls for an inquiry into Home Office mistreatment of torture evidence, based on the evidence revealed in our Proving Torture report. We responded to the Home Office’s High Court defeat on the detention of torture survivors, including a moving opinion piece for the Guardian by survivor Serge Eric.

In December Joan Ryan MP, Tom Brake MP and the author and broadcaster John McCarthy joined our Acting CEO Sonya Sceats and Head of Communications and Campaigns Hannah Ward to deliver a petition to 10 Downing Street with 30,000 of your signatures, calling on Theresa May to stand firm on torture.

We’ve also played a key role in collaborative national campaigns, co-ordinating a joint letter calling on Jeremy Hunt to rethink the introduction of dangerous and unworkable new rules around charging for access to NHS services, involving more than 800 medical professionals and 190 organisations. We supported the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness’ spotlight month on refugees with some hard-hitting opinion pieces in the media. And we continue to play a key part in Refugee Week to celebrate ‘Our Shared Future’, with staff and supporters holding events across the country and culminating in an event at London’s Southbank Centre.

Our international advocacy has continued to uncover evidence of torture and hold torturing states accountable. Our report on Turkey was given new impetus by the attempted coup of 2016, and revealed the consistent use of torture to suppress political activity between 1992 and 2015.

Iran was the focus of a major new Freedom from Torture report entitled “Turning A Blind Eye” published in December. It examined forensic evidence of 69 people tortured by the Iranian regime, documenting alarming levels of torture and abuse perpetrated by the Iranian government between 1985 and 2015, and criticised the muted response to these human rights abuses from the UK and other countries. It was launched with a private Parliamentary roundtable hosted by the Parliamentary Human Rights Group and chaired by Ann Clwyd MP.

Freedom from Torture’s survivor-led activist network Survivors Speak OUT was also busy in 2017. Kolbassia Haoussou appeared at the UN General Assembly in September, speaking out on sexual violence in conflict. He was also the subject of a powerful video for the Economist marking the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention Against Torture. SSO ran successful campaigns around the International Day In Support of Victims of Torture and 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, sharing the voices of survivors and calling for urgent action to prevent further abuses.

Our creative writing group “Write to Life” have collaborated with leading theatre producers on the stunning play “The Claim”, which offers an unflinching look at the asylum process, and appeared at the London Migration Film Festival’s opening gala.

It was a record-breaking year for our special events. In November our prestigious Art Auction, featuring works by Antony Gormley, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Quentin Blake, Cornelia Parker and more, raised a staggering £140,000: our biggest fundraising event ever. This was followed a few weeks later by our most successful local group event, a unique auction of beautiful wooden artworks hosted by our South East London supporters. Thank you to everyone who helped make these events such huge successes!

As we look forward to 2018, we remain committed to protecting and supporting survivors of torture, in a changing and increasingly hostile world. We couldn’t do this without you: thank you so much for everything you’ve helped us to achieve in 2017; we hope you’ll continue to stand with us in 2018 and beyond.

Our work is only possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters. If you'd like to make a donation to support our work in 2018, please do so below. Thank you.