Faced with the complexity and specific nature of troubles associated with torture, many organizations committed to the defense of human rights, (the French branches of Amnesty International and of Doctors of the World, ACAT, “Juristes sans frontières”, and “Trève”, an association of psychologists) decided to create the Primo Levi Centre in 1995.
Originally, the clinic relied on a founding team rich of an acquired experience gained over many years within the AVRE (Association des victimes de la répression en exil).
When the clinic opened, the international political context was of the gravest: war in former Yugoslavia, genocide in Rwanda and, shortly thereafter, the dark years of violence in Algeria. The political contexts as well as the proximity and scale of the violence perpetrated in these countries led to continued questioning within the organizations and among the people involved in the founding of the Primo Levi Centre.
Moreover, the policies towards foreigners in France and Europe could not leave indifferent those professionals working with victims of torture and political violence. A climate of suspicion facing asylum seekers was building up. They were strictly forbidden the right to work and to learn French while waiting for their application for asylum to be processed. They were less and less welcome.
The right to asylum and the hope of protection was being increasingly flouted. Under these conditions, it was necessary to integrate the care project under a larger organization, to become more comprehensive and more political.
The association undertook the necessary task of reporting on the use of torture and the rejection of refugees, but the commitment of doctors to bear witness from their clinics was also necessary.