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Glossary

Medical Terms

Axilla
Armpit.
Brachial plexus
The nerves running from the spine into the arm.
Callus
An area of thickening of bone at the place of healing.
Cerebral oedema (edema)
Swelling of the brain.
Cognitive impairment
Partial impairment of memory, thinking, perception or mood.
Counter-transference
Potential emotional reaction of the clinical evaluator toward the alleged torture victim.
Depigmentation
Complete loss of pigment from a patch of skin.
DSM
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (American Psychiatric Association).
Haematuria
Blood in the urine.
Hyperpigmentation
Increase in pigmentation of an area of skin.
Hypopigmentation
Partial loss of pigment from an area of skin.
Intrusive memories
Involuntary, unpleasant and recurrent memories of an incident.
Ischemia
Decreased blood flow.
Laceration
A wound in which the skin is torn by blunt force.
Medical Evaluation
An assessment of physical and/or psychological evidence by a clinician.
Medical history
An individual’s personal account of a health problem.
Medico-legal
Relating to that branch of medicine that assists the courts.
Necrotic
Devitalized (death of) body tissues.
Neuropathy
Nerve damage.
Oedematous (edematous)
Swollen.
Parasthesias
A skin sensation such as burning, itching, tingling, with no apparent casuse.
Pathognomonic
A pathological finding that has only one cause.
Perianal
Around the anus.
Petechiae
Clusters of very small bruises.
Psychosomatic symptoms
Apparently physical symptoms that have a psychological cause.
Retinal haemorrhage
Bleeding into the back of the eye.
Sequelae
The consequences of a medical problem.
Striae distensae
Stretch marks of the skin.
Subdural bleeding
Bleeding between certain layers of fibrous tissue covering the brain.
Tonic-clonic fits
The common form of epileptic convulsions or seizures.
Transference
Feelings that a survivor of torture has towards the clinician that relate to past experiences, but which are misunerstood and towards the clinician personally.
Urethral meatus
The aperture at the end of the penis through which urine is voided.

Legal Terms

Allegation
A claim (as yet neither proved nor disproved) that an incident of torture has occurred.
Applicant
Person making an application under an individual complaint procedure.
Application
Submission asking a judicial body to consider a case under an individual complaint procedure.
Arrest
The act of apprehending a person for the alleged commission of an offence or by the action of an authority.
Asylum
Asylum is sought by individuals who do not wish to return to a country, usually their own, where they are at risk. If granted, it means being allowed to remain in a country which is not their own. It may be temporary or permanent.
Corroboration
Evidence which supports or confirms the truth of an allegation.
CPT
Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture.
Declaration
A particularly formed resolution, usually of the United Nations General Assembly, which is not as such legally-binding, but sets out standards which states undertake to respect.
Derogate
To temporarily suspend or limit.
Detention
Depriving a person of personal liberty except as a result of conviction for an offence.
Domestic law or legal system
National law or legal system; law or legal system which is specific to a particular country.
Enforcement (of obligations)
Making the obligations effective; ensuring that they are respected.
Fact-finding
Carrying out an investigation to discover the facts.
Incommunicado detention
Being held by the authorities without being allowed any contact with the outside world.
Individual complaint
A complaint relating to a specific set of facts affecting an individual or individuals.
Instrument
A general term to refer to international law documents, whether legally binding or not.
Judicial procedure
A procedure before a judicial body.
NGO
Non-governmental organisation.
Perpetrator
The person who has carried out an act.
Reparation
Measures to repair damage caused, eg. compensation.
Sanction
A penalty imposed for a state’s failure to respect its legal obligation.
State responsibility
Holding a state accountable under international law.
Treaty
International law document which sents out legally-binding obligations for states.
War Crimes
Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions 1949, committed in the course of an armed conflict against persons or property protected by the Conventions, and other criminal violations of the rules of war.

Clarifications of Terms

Use of the term “patient”
Individuals who allege torture and ill treatment are sometimes referred to as “patients” even in the context of medico-legal evaluations.
Physicians/Clinicians
The terms “physician” and “clincician” are often used interchangably in this Curriculum. Keep in mind that psychological evidence may be evaluated by physicians, psychologists and clinical social workers. Physical evidence, however, is evaluated by physicians (medical doctors) only.