The founder of the Medical Foundation Caring for Victims of Torture (MFCVT) on her harrowing work
MONDAY: I usually come in at 8am to deal with correspondence and read medical reports. Yesterday I saw a distressed young Kurdish man; he's mourning that he had to leave his family behind. His circumstances were such that he had to flee. Today, I see a woman from the Middle East who was tortured in one country and horribly violated in another. She's courageous and is working hard to overcome some terrible things. I have my own caseload because I don't believe I can speak to the public or to decision-makers without personal knowledge. My work with people exposed to man-made disaster started at the end of the Second World War, when I went with a relief unit to the former Belsen concentration camp. At Belsen, the role I had was to be a listener; not necessarily with words, but holding them or rocking them as they told their story.

TUESDAY: I usually grab some muesli or a banana for breakfast, although we eat badly here I'm afraid because the hours are long. I meet two colleagues about organising a conference in South Africa. Raising money is a nightmare. We want to bring people who normally wouldn't come to a conference, from dangerous places. In the evening, I potter about my flat and listen to music. My sons have all grown up and are away. I have a little patio which I'm devoted to. It's big enough for a table and chair, so I sometimes have my meal there, and read a Victorian novel. It's relaxing because it's unrelated to my life.

WEDNESDAY: Have a meeting with our clinical multi-disciplinary group, where we examine cases we find difficult to move forward. While I was working with Am- nesty International, there was a need for a medical campaign to raise awareness. We were looking at quite institutionalised torture in Latin America and South Africa; with interrogation methods designed to break people. It's often not just the torture of one body, but a process, involving false death certificates, and doctors talking about accidents. The foundation was set up in 1985. In the afternoon I am invited to speak to the Foreign Office's human rights policy division, to describe the work of the foundation and what torture is. I dash to the English National Opera to see Carmen, but the seats are very expensive. Then I go to the House of Commons to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.

THURSDAY: We have a discussion about the UN diplomatic conference in Rome. We will be calling for a strong article to hold superior officers responsible for crimes against humanity, if they do nothing to prevent them. On the World Service I hear the Turkish government had closed down a new rehabilitation centre in the centre ofKurdistan. Yet again, human rights work in Turkey is endangered. We are very concerned about this.

FRIDAY: A frontline team meeting: our crisis intervention team is trying to meet the needs of asylum seekers who are now without benefits due to recent legislation. Tomorrow, I go to Sheffield, to a group of Chilean refugees who came here in the early 1970s. They are concerned about how to tell their children about what happened; how to move forward in a society which is not always the most welcoming. Most were badly tortured and have suffered long-term physical effects. It's often difficult for torture victims to get validation, recognition and the long-term understanding and response they need: space to be angry, to grieve and to reflect.

International Day in Support of Torture Victims is on Friday.

Interview by Rachelle Thackray

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