Source description last updated: 28 February 2020

In brief:

Freedom from Torture is a UK-based NGO supporting and protecting survivors of torture.

Coverage on


Covered quarterly on, for countries of priorities A-C.


Freedom from Torture was “founded on Christmas Eve 1985 as the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture by Helen Bamber and Amnesty International volunteers” and has since “been helping survivors overcome their torture and live better, happier lives.” (Freedom from Torture website: How we’re run, undated)

“Freedom from Torture is the only UK-based human rights organisation dedicated to the treatment and rehabilitation of torture survivors. We offer services across England and Scotland to around 1,000 torture survivors a year, including psychological and physical therapies, forensic documentation of torture, legal and welfare advice and creative projects.” (Freedom from Torture: A tool to silence: Torture to crush dissent in the Democratic Republic of Congo, November 2018, p. 1)

“Using our in-depth evidence of torture, we work with survivors to hold countries who torture to account.

Our evidence of torture comes from medico-legal reports (MLRs). These are highly detailed forensic descriptions of the physical injuries a person has suffered, completed by our doctors, clinical staff and lawyers to international human rights standards.

These act as evidence of torture. From this, we are able to build up a picture of what torture looks like in the countries where the people we help come from.” (Freedom from Torture website: Torture around the world, undated)

Freedom from Torture operates a “national network of torture survivors who are former clients [...] and who speak with authority on issues of torture, and life in the UK as asylum seekers and refugees who have survived trauma.” (Freedom from Torture website: Survivor activism, undated)


“We rely on donations from generous individuals for almost three-quarters of our funding. The rest comes from trusts and foundations. We accept a small amount of funding from certain parts of government such as the National Lottery and the Scottish government, for specific projects. We do not accept funding from the Home Office.” (Freedom from Torture website: Funding and annual reports, undated)

For detailed information on assets see Freedom from Torture’s Trustee’s Annual Report and Financial Statements for the Year ended 31 December 2018.

Scope of reporting:

Thematic focus: Asylum and rights, therapy and support, torture and the law.

Geographic focus: Countries with reported instances of torture.


Freedom from Torture supports survivors of torture “by recording any evidence of torture [via] [...] a medico-legal report (MLR) service.

A medico-legal report is an important legal document, which documents evidence of torture and supports a torture survivor’s asylum claim. It is requested and used by the torture survivor’s legal representative.” (Freedom from Torture website: Evidence of torture; undated)

“Medico-legal reports are commissioned by legal representatives on behalf of their clients and prepared by specialist doctors according to standards set out in the [...] UN Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, otherwise known as the ‘Istanbul Protocol’. Each is subject to a detailed clinical and legal review process.

Freedom from Torture’s Medico-Legal Report Service has been accepted by the United Kingdom Home Office as ‘having recognised expertise in the assessment of the physical, psychological, psychiatric and social effects of torture.’ [...]

The torture documentation process includes reviewing an individual’s history as presented in documents relating to their application for asylum, taking a history as narrated by the individual, and assessing the history in relation to clinical findings in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol and Freedom from Torture’s own methodology. Clinical findings are obtained through a full physical examination, including an assessment of physical symptoms and the observation and documentation of all lesions [...], a full mental state examination and the documentation of psychological symptoms and signs of torture.” (Freedom from Torture: Too little change: Ongoing torture in security operations in Sri Lanka, February 2019, Appendix One. Torture Documentation Process, p. 16)

For instance, a report on torture in security operations in Sri Lanka, published in February 2019, was “based on a systematic review of 16 reports that were prepared by the organisation’s independent Medico-Legal Report Service between April 2016 and August 2018. Each of the 16 people whose reports form the basis of this briefing gave consent for their information to be used for research.” (Freedom from Torture: Too little change: Ongoing torture in security operations in Sri Lanka, February 2019, Methodology, p. 4)

Language(s) of publications:


Further reading / links:

Annual Report 2018

United Nations Istanbul Protocol, 2004


All links accessed 28 February 2020.