White torture, invisible but implacable

White torture or white room torture does not directly attack the body: by assaulting the five senses or the psychological integrity of a person, it remains invisible to the naked eye but leaves indelible psychological traces. It is notably practised on political prisoners in Iran.

It can take many forms, ranging from the absence of any human contact to total sensory deprivation and even humiliation. The long-term consequences of this form of torture are often even more severe than those caused by physical torture. The United States resorted to white torture in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks. Since then, this method of torture has become increasingly widespread and sophisticated, in Iran and elsewhere. Little known and notoriously difficult to document, it must be strongly denounced. Lawyer and activist Narges Mohammadi, who has spent most of the last 13 years behind bars, has been subjected to this form of torture. She collected the testimonies of other Iranian victims in a poignant documentary, before being sentenced again in January 2022 to eight years in prison and 70 lashes. Narges Mohammadi has been in detention since 16 November 2021 while she serves the remainder of her previous sentence of 30 months in prison and 80 lashes.

JusticeLiberties & DemocracyMiddle East

Friday 11 March


Grütli - Salle Langlois

Followed by the debate White torture, invisible but implacable.

French - English - Persian

Co-presented with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)


Jenny Piaget Chief of Human Rights Diplomacy Section at the State Secretariat of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA)


Shirin Ebadi Iranian judge and lawyer, Nobel Peace Prize 2003

Gerald Staberock Secretary General of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)

Taghi Rahmani Iranian journalist and writer, husband of the film director of White Torture, Narges Mohammadi

Moderated by

Serge Michel Director of and deputy editor-in-chief of Le Temps

To go further

“White Room Torture - Worst Punishments in the History of Mankind“ dans The Infographics Show, 27 août 2020.

This debat is preceded by the movie:

Compétition - Grand Reportage

White Torture

By Narges Mohammadi

Narges Mohammadi, Vice President of the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran, has been detained in the Evin prison since November 2021. She has edited this powerful documentary based on interviews with 16 former prisoners who have been subjected to White Torture: four white walls, no natural light, no sound and no human contact. After a few months, many will prefer to confess to any crime, even if it means being executed. A highly effective method that leaves no trace...

Screening in the presence of Shirin Ebadi, Iranian lawyer and human rights activist, Nobel Peace Prize winner 2003. 

  • Section Compétition - Grand Reportage
  • Subtitle(s) French & English


Narges Mohammadi
Production country
Swiss Premiere