A workshop on the consequences of torture

What is it about?

This workshop enables participants to develop empathy with those who have been tortured. Through this workshop, participants use interactive activities to explore the effect of torture on a person, family, community and country.

Why this workshop?

Sometimes people feel detached from topics like torture because it is outside of their experience and they don’t know people that have been affected by it. The purpose of this workshop is to engage participant’s emotions through creating sensitivity to the potential effects of torture.   

Required Materials or Facilities

Post-its; Flip-chart paper; White-board; Soft and permanent markers; Role play cards (see below, or select other cases from the ‘take action’ web link provided at the end of this workshop).

Additional ideas

If you do not have enough resources (post its, boards, etc.) you may do the activity just through discussion and using the discussion prompts. The only resources you do need are the role cards for the game. You can also use the character as the basis of a story, poem or art project if the participants wanted to develop a creative response to the issue of torture.

Group size: 6 or more participants

Time required: Approximately 2 hours

Suggested introduction

It can be a good idea to start with an ice-breaker or a team-building activity that enables participants to become familiar and more comfortable with each other. It will then be easier for them to share personal thoughts and experiences.  You could invite participants to write 3 – 4 statements about themselves on post-it notes (e.g. favourite place/movie/book; an embarrassing experience; a famous person they would most like to meet; their most important possession) and then the whole group has to guess which participant wrote which statement.

Personal Experiences

1- Invite participants to consider the questions below by asking or displaying them. Depending on your group you could ask them in a verbal discussion but you may also wish to ask participants to consider their answers quietly and write any responses they want to share on post-its to stick up on a wall. Once people have added post-its you can invite everyone to read the responses, and then ask if anyone would like to discuss the answer they have written.


What do you know about torture?

Have you ever experienced torture in your life?

Has someone you know been tortured and how did you feel about this?

How do you feel about someone you don’t know being tortured?

At this stage, how, if at all, how would you like to be involved in Amnesty International’s Stop Torture campaign?

Create a character

2- On a whiteboard or large piece of paper ask one of the participants to draw a stick diagram of a person. Ask the participants to give the stick person a name, a gender, a family, a city they live in and a nationality. The group will need to use their imagination to create a character and bring the character to life, so they might want to add other details like favourite food, sport, films etc.  If you did the suggested ice-breaker the group might want to use this for inspiration or even attribute some of the participant responses to the stick-person.

Ask participants to imagine a life for the person. You can choose a range of relevant questions, such as:


Who is in their family and what are their relationships like?

Do they enjoy their job?

What do they like to do in their city and their country?

What plans do they have for their future?


When the group decide answers they write them on post-its, ideally in a bright cheerful colour, and display them around the stick diagram.

3- Ask participants to imagine the person’s relationship to the society. Again, facilitators can choose a range of questions, such as:


What does the person think of their government?

What do they think of the police and other security agencies?

How do they think the police should tackle crime and make society safe?

What do they think about the future of their country?


Invite the group to stick their answers up on post-its around the person.

Role Play

5- Divide the participants into pairs and distribute the role-play cards on Worksheet One. Ask pairs to read through the card. One of them needs to play the role of the relative describing the events on the card. The other takes the role of interviewer. The interviewer needs think of sensitive questions that will help find out how the person feels about what happened. The person playing the role needs to take time to really imagine how it would feel for this to happen to someone in their family.

6- Give the pairs 10 minutes to prepare and practice a short role-play, and then show some or all the role-plays to the group, depending on time.

7- After the activity allow each pair to discuss how they felt during this activity and share some of their thoughts with the group.

After Torture

8- Ask the group to select one of the five cases in the role-play activity to consider in this exercise. You could select one of the role-plays that have been shown to the group. First ensure that everyone knows what happened in this case.

9- Invite the group to imagine that the events described in the case happened to your imaginary character. Ask them to go back to the original post-its they had put on the stick diagram and see whether they think this would remain the same after experiencing this torture. Would the character feel / think / act differently? If the original diagram needs to be changed the participants need to place a post-it of a different (ideally more neutral) colour over the top and on this write why this part of their life is affected.

10- Look at the effect on the character’s life. Discuss which aspects might have changed most dramatically and which might have remained the same.

Debrief and Reflections

11- Reflect upon the issue of torture by leading a discussion using the following questions:


What is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about torture?

Do you think this workshop has altered your immediate response to the idea of torture?

After this exercise, do you think you will react differently next time you hear or read about torture in the media?

Has taking part in the workshop altered how you want to be involved with the Stop Torture campaign?


Take Action Now @ http://amnesty.org/ar/stoptorture

This workshop was adapted from the ‘Human Rights Education Guide for Stop Torture Campaign’ available @ www.empoweragainsttorture.net

Role Play Cards

Card I: Raif Badawi- Saudi Arabia

Raif is one of many activists in Saudi Arabia persecuted for expressing their views online. Facebook and Twitter are incredibly popular in a country where people can’t voice their opinions openly in public. The authorities have responded to this increase in online debate by monitoring social media sites and even trying to ban applications such as Skype and WhatsApp.

Raif Badawi was jailed for 10 years in May 2014 after starting a website for social and political debate in Saudi Arabia. He was charged with creating the ‘Saudi Arabian Liberals’ website and insulting Islam. His sentence also included 1,000 lashes, a 10-year travel ban, and a ban on appearing on media outlets.

The charges related to articles Raif wrote criticising religious authorities in Saudi Arabia, as well as pieces written by others which were published on his website. The prosecution had called for him to be tried for ‘apostasy’ (when a person abandons their religion), which carries the death sentence.

Card II: Daniel Quintero- Venezuela

Daniel is one of many who have complained of torture and other cruel treatment in Venezuela. The authorities appear to have targeted people who they believe took part in mass protests across the country earlier this year.

Daniel Quintero, 21, was beaten, intimidated and threatened with rape by members of Venezuela’s national guard, after he was arrested on the way home from an anti-government demonstration in February 2014.

“They kicked and punched me in the face and ribs, and hit me on the forehead with the butts of their guns,” he told Amnesty later. “They all queued up to hit me. One of them whipped me on my left shoulder with a leather cord.” He was stripped to his underwear, handcuffed and forced to spend nine hours doubled up with his hands touching his ankles. If he moved, they beat him.

Daniel told Amnesty he was repeatedly humiliated, insulted and threatened. At one point, the commanding officer “told me they were going to burn me. He had a can of petrol, wires and matches. The whole army surrounded me while he hit me nine times with his baton.”


Card III: Mohammed Al-Roken- United Arab Emirates

His conviction followed years of harassment and intimidation from the authorities. Then, in March 2011, he and 132 others – including academics, judges and students – signed a petition calling for democratic reform in the UAE. The government responded with a fierce attack on activists, including waves of arrests.

He was one of 69 people convicted of forming a secret organization aimed at overthrowing the government, following a blatantly unfair mass trial of 94 activists.

In the run-up to the trial, Mohammed and his co-defendants – known as the ‘UAE 94’ – were denied access to a lawyer and kept in solitary confinement. Some told the judge they had been tortured, and “confessions” obtained through torture were used as evidence in court. They were all denied the right to appeal, which contravenes international law.

As a lawyer, Mohammed took on human rights cases nobody else would touch. He has long been a supporter of Amnesty but now faces prison for working tirelessly to defend people’s human rights.


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