Torture and torture practices in Tanzania: Knowledge, attitudes and practice among medical professionals

A baseline study


  • Brenda Van den Bergh DIGNITY-Danish Institute against Torture
  • Marie Brasholt DIGNITY - Danish Institute Against Torture
  • Praxeda James Swai MAT - Medical Association of Tanzania
  • Primus Saidia MAT - Medical Association of Tanzania
  • Moses Kidew MAT - Medical Association of Tanzania
  • Naomi Lipsius Hincheli DIGNITY - Danish Institute Against Torture
  • Maha Aon DIGNITY - Danish Institute Against Torture
  • Jens Modvig DIGNITY - Danish Institute Against Torture



Torture, Tanzania, Medical professional, Torture knowledge


Introduction: Medical professionals have a key role in addressing torture and need an awareness and knowledge of torture in relation to rehabilitation approaches, prevention and international standards. This study was undertaken with the aim of assessing the current knowledge, attitudes and practices of medical professionals in Tanzania, creating a baseline for possible future interventions. Methods: Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected. A cross-sectional survey was carried out using an intervieweradministrated structured questionnaire with 31 questions. Five focus group discussions were held. 386 medical professionals participated in the study representing primary, secondary and tertiary levels of health care in five regions of mainland Tanzania: Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Kigoma, Mara and Mbeya.
Results: Around 95% of all professionals acknowledged the existence of torture in Tanzania, but only 7% could correctly identify six different acts as being actual acts of torture according to the definition of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Less than 15% were aware of relevant international standards like the Istanbul Protocol and the Mandela Rules. Up to 57% perceived that torture could be acceptable under certain circumstances. About 68% of all professionals reported to have encountered torture victims. The majority (82.9%) saw themselves as competent in the management of torture victims, but only 22% had received training specifically focusing on torture and its consequences. Most were interested in learning more on the subject. Conclusion: While medical professionals may be aware of theexistence of torture in the country and report encountering torture victims in their daily work, both the professionals’ skills and attitudes with regards to torture require development to intensify the workagainst torture in Tanzania. Intervention strategies should target training in medical schools and in-service training for medical professionals at all levels within the healthcare system.


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How to Cite

Van den Bergh, B., Brasholt, M., Swai, P. J., Saidia, P., Kidew, M., Lipsius Hincheli, N., Aon, M., & Modvig, J. (2019). Torture and torture practices in Tanzania: Knowledge, attitudes and practice among medical professionals: A baseline study. Torture Journal, 29(2), 70–80.