Treating survivors of torture

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Every year, thousands of Indian citizens and immigrants survive torture. Many survivors of torture in neighboring countries also seek refuge in India. This page aims at putting together resources for health care professionals in India who provide treatment to survivors of torture.

In 1984 the UN Convention Against Torture stated that “the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purpose 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. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to lawful sanctions”. [1]

In India the total number of incidents of torture is difficult to estimate because many incidents go unreported. Torture may be meted out by police and paramilitary forces as well as by other agencies such as caste panchayats and rebel groups such as the Naxalites and armed organizations in the North East. The use of various forms of torture by the police in India is widely prevalent. A report by the Asian Center for Human Rights stated that "torture remains endemic, institutionalised and central to the administration of justice and counter-terrorism measures [in India]". The reports records that from 2001 to February 2010, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recorded 1,504 deaths in police custody and 12,727 deaths in judicial custody in India. A large majority of these deaths are claimed to be the direct consequence of torture in custody.[2]

The Medical Council of India's Code of Ethics Regulations, 2002 explicitly states, "The physician shall not aid or abet torture nor shall he be a party to either infliction of mental or physical trauma or concealment of torture inflicted by some other person or agency in clear violation of human rights."[3]. However attitudes toward torture among the Indian medical community are often ambivalent. A study of 97 fourth year medical students in Delhi found that only 21 students did not support the practice of police beatings in order to obtain information, with 28 supporting the practice and 46 remaining undecided.[4].


Populations who are vulnerable to torture

  • Internally displaced people
  • Adivasi and Dalit communities
  • Immigrants

Treating survivors of torture

Summaries of research on treating survivors of torture

Organizations working with survivors of torture

In India

Outside India

Legal aspects

Laws which may be used to sanction torture

  • Prevention of Terrorism Act(POTA)
  • Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act
  • Terrorism and Destructive Activities Act (Prevention)
  • Essential Services Maintenance Act

Laws which protect citizens from torture

International statutes


  1. UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  2. Asian Centre for Human Rights (2011). Torture in India 2011. New Delhi: Asian Centre For Human Rights
  3. Medical Council of India. (2002). Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002
  4. Verma, SK & Biswas, G. (2005). Knowledge and attitude on torture by medical students in Delhi. Torture. 15 (1), p46-50.

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