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Helen Bamber, founder of Freedom from Torture, dies aged 89

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 22 Aug 2014 17:06 GMT
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A Rwandan woman who was brought to London and forced to have sex while her captor collected her earnings, speaks to a member of the Helen Bamber Foundation in London April 11, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico
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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Helen Bamber, co-founder of Freedom from Torture, one of the world's largest rehabilitation and treatment centres for survivors of torture, has died aged 89.

Bamber, a British psychotherapist who helped survivors of Nazi concentration camps in her early career, worked for nearly 70 years with victims of torture and human rights abuses.

She was “an inspiring charismatic leader and champion for all survivors of torture”, said Freedom from Torture's Vice Chair of Trustees, Daniel Dayan.

"As well as being a highly dedicated and gifted clinician, Helen was formidable and visionary in her commitment to human rights, co-founding and leading our charity at an age when others might have contemplated retirement,” he wrote in a tribute on the organisation’s website.

Bamber described torture as the “the total perversion of all that is good in human relationships".

“It has been described by one survivor as ‘the act of killing a man without his dying’. It is designed to destroy not only the physical and psychological integrity of one individual, but with every blow, with every electrode, his or her family and the next generation,” she wrote on her website.

In 1945, at the age of 20, Bamber went to work in the newly liberated concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen.

Two years later, she was appointed to the Committee for the Care of Children from Concentration Camps to take care of 722 young orphan children who had been incarcerated in Auschwitz, her website said.

Freedom from Torture, which started as a small hut in the backyard of Amnesty International, now treats more than 1,000 torture survivors who have sought refuge in the UK.

The organisation provides rehabilitation services, advocates for the protection of torture survivors who seek refuge in the UK, and uses evidence from clinicians and survivors to hold torturing states to account.

Freedom from Torture, formerly the Medical Foundation for the Care of the Victims of Torture, began its work in 1985 under the auspices of Amnesty International's Medical Group, a year after the United Nations Convention Against Torture was adopted by the UN General Assembly.

(Editing by Ros Russell, rosalind.russell@thomsonreuters.com)

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