Douglas A. Johnson to Leave His Position as Executive Director of the Center for Victims of Torture

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Douglas A. Johnson to Leave His Position as Executive Director of the Center for Victims of Torture

St. Paul, MN—The Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) announced today that Executive Director Douglas A. Johnson has decided to leave the organization in January of 2012. Johnson’s 23 years of dedicated service to CVT has built an organization and an international movement that enables torture survivors to heal and rebuild their lives.

CVT is a global leader in providing rehabilitative care to survivors of torture and members of their families; training health and human service professionals on torture and its effects; and influencing public policy by advocating for the needs of torture survivors and the end of torture.

Upon his departure, Johnson will continue to fulfill his lifelong commitment to human rights and social justice, beginning with a human rights guest teaching engagement in Uruguay in early 2012.

“Leading CVT has been the most professionally and personally rewarding work of my life,” Johnson said. “I take great pride in what we have accomplished, but now it is time for new leadership to bring fresh ideas and energy to the work of healing torture survivors and working for a world without torture.”

Johnson has built CVT into a major international human rights institution since his arrival in 1988.

CVT’s budget has grown from $212,000 in 1987 to more than $10 million in 2011, and CVT has opened offices in St. Paul, MN, and Washington, DC, along with healing centers in Africa and the Middle East.

“As executive director of the Center for the Victims of Torture for the past 23 years, Doug has made an incredible mark on human rights,” said Patti Andreini Arnold, Chair, CVT Board of Directors. “He has placed CVT at the forefront of torture rehabilitation and, in doing so, built an organization that has helped thousands of survivors of torture rebuild their lives. On behalf of CVT’s Board of Directors, I thank Doug for his extraordinary vision and outstanding leadership.”

Treating Torture Survivors Internationally
Johnson led the launch of CVT’s first international project to aid torture survivors in 1993, with CVT staff organizing training for care providers in Bosnia and Croatia. CVT began extending care directly to torture survivors internationally in 1999, through its work in four refugee camps in Guinea, where the staff provided individual and group therapy to Sierra Leonean refugees fleeing a brutal civil war.

Since then, CVT has worked in Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jordan and Kenya. In addition to providing mental health services in those countries, CVT trains members of the community and refugee population to be skilled group counselors, advocates, educators and trainers. The goal is to develop mental health resources where none existed before. Former counselors trained by CVT have been hired by the International Criminal Court, the Special Court for Sierra Leone and other organizations where mental health expertise is required.

To date, CVT has cared for over 20,000 torture survivors at its rehabilitation center in the U.S. and through projects in Africa and the Middle East.

"Doug's leadership in human rights is exemplified by his many contributions to fostering the significant growth of the torture rehabilitation movement throughout the world,” said Elisa Massimino, President and CEO, Human Rights First. “He has helped so many of us better understand torture rehabilitation's role in overcoming human rights abuses."

Advocating on Behalf of Torture Survivors and to End Torture Worldwide
Johnson played a critical role in developing and passing the Torture Victims Relief Act of 1998 (TVRA). Under his leadership, CVT has enlisted broad bipartisan support in Congress for TVRA which has resulted in millions of dollars in federal funding for torture rehabilitation programs in the U.S. and around the world.

“Doug is an internationally respected leader in torture rehabilitation,” said Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), a leading human rights lawmaker. “His input and expertise were invaluable in helping victims of torture recover physically and emotionally throughout the world. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Doug over the years helping repair the broken lives of torture victims.”

In 2007-08, Johnson was a leader in the Campaign to Ban Torture, a bipartisan coalition of more than 200 senior leaders from the military, national security, intelligence and foreign policy sectors, as well as faith leaders calling for an executive order to ban torture. The campaign contributed to President Barack Obama’s decision to sign an executive order ending U.S. use of torture and cruel treatment on his second day of office.

During his tenure at CVT, Johnson’s expertise has been called upon at home and abroad. He was a public member of the U.S. Delegation to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Implementation Meeting of the Human Dimension Issues acting as spokesman for U.S. policy in regard to torture. He is an original member of the Advisory Panel on the Prevention of Torture formed by the OSCE to build an OSCE strategy to end torture in the region. Johnson has also testified before Congress on human rights, the use of torture and its implications for U.S. policy and TVRA.

Sharing New Tactics for Human Rights
Johnson pioneered the New Tactics in Human Rights ( project in 1996 to promote tactical innovation and strategic thinking within the international human rights community. Activists from more than 120 nations have participated in the project’s workshops, publications and online discussions.

Under the direction of CVT’s board of directors, an executive search firm will begin identifying and recruiting candidates for the executive director position in the spring of 2011. Johnson will continue as executive director until his successor is chosen, expected to be at the end of 2011.

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CVT is a nonprofit based in St. Paul with an office in Washington D.C. and projects in Africa and the Middle East. Visit


Brad Robideau
brobideau [at] cvt [dot] org

Media Contact

Brad Robideau
Media Relations Manager
+1 612-436-4886 (office) or +1 651-808-7178 (mobile)
Journalists:  If you’d like to receive CVT press releases, please email your request to Brad Robideau at brobideau [at] cvt [dot] org.




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