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A great pioneer in the fight against torture has passed away

Published 01.08.2017
One of the pioneers and Elders of the torture rehabilitation movement, Professor Bent Sørensen MD, DMSc, passed away on 30 July 2017 in his home town of Skodsborg, Denmark, at the age of 93.

Professor Sørensen, a world renowned expert in burns and plastic surgery, dedicated the last four decades of his life to furthering the rights of torture victims around the world and in Denmark.

Back in the 80’s, he was part of a group of pioneers who founded DIGNITY (then Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims, RCT) at the initiative of Inge Genefke, who would later become his wife. As one of the first centers in the world, RCT was able to offer specialized treatment to victims of torture, and Bent’s medical background contributed to the realization of this treatment.

He will be remembered for his ability to put medical expertise to use in principled and unwavering support of those who suffered the most horrific attacks on human dignity, and for his kind and constructive approach to everyone he met.

- Despite his age, he was both witty, sharp and resourceful until the end, and we lose in him a principled and relentless champion of dignity and justice. Personally, I’ll miss Bent, whom I’ve gotten to know and care about during my years in DIGNITY, says Karin Verland, director general at DIGNITY.

He never gave up
In 1984, he was elected President of RCT and, along with his wife Dr Inge Genefke, became a leading figure in the global community that today forms the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), a network of over 150 centres that every year provide rehabilitation to more than 100.000 torture victims in 75 countries.

 In addition to his activism, Professor Sørensen actively contributed to the building of regional and global structures to eradicate torture and ensure rehabilitation for its victims. In 1987, he was elected Member of the United Nations Committee against Torture and in 1989 of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. In both bodies, he formed part of the initial membership and through more than a decade of tireless work helped shape them into strong global champions for torture victims. In the UN Committee against Torture, Professor Sørensen is recognized for always focusing on the needs of victims, and he would consistently question States on what they were doing to ensure rehabilitation support for them.

During his yearlong fight against torture, Bent Sørensen met hundreds of people who had been subjected to the most unspeakable evils, and who needed help. Thanks to his commitment, humanistic approach and his great medical knowledge, he never gave up the fight, and remained true to his mission – to help these people in the best way possible. Bent stayed active until the very end, among other things through his work at the Anti-Torture Support Foundation, and in the Danish public debate. He further kept in contact with many colleagues, allies and previous clients who benefited from his support until the end.

- On behalf of all of us and of the many people to whom he made a difference, I would like to express sincere gratitude. I’m sending my warmest regards to Bent’s loved ones, particularly Inge, in this time of sorrow, says Karin Verland.

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