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Italian Doctor Helps Tortured African Migrants

Prof Massimo Del Bene aids African migrants whose captors inflicted horrific injuries to extort ransom payments. The first patient was a young Ghanaian man who had been tortured every day for more than a year in Libya by traffickers trying to extort a ransom for his release, says Prof Massimo Del Bene, head of reconstructive surgery at the San Gerardo hospital in Monza, north of Milan. Since then, the surgeon renowned for performing the first double hand transplant in Italy, has adapted his expertise to what he calls “torture surgery”, helping African migrants who have survived Libyan detention camps, where traffickers and criminal gangs are documented to have tortured captives to extort ransom money. For traffickers, damaging someone’s hands is the most effective way to take agency from prisoners, he says. For many poor migrants, losing their hands prevents them from earning a living. In the past four years Del Bene and his staff have treated a dozen migrants for such injuries; many have had to undergo multiple operations and a long rehabilitation processes.