Archive for the ‘news coverage’ Category

Broken Laws, Broken Lives Discussed on Thom Hartmann Show

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Thom Hartmann, a national progressive talk show host, today featured on his show a discussion of PHR’s report Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact. A transcript of the feature is expected to be available.

Mr. Hartmann spent several minutes quoting from various areas of the report, and commenting on what he was reading. He made clear his disgust with what the men who agreed to be in the report, who were never charged with any wrongdoing, had been put through. He also addressed the Obama administration’s reluctance to “look back” and bring the people responsible for the torture treatment to justice.

For more information on PHR’s work against torture, see Campaign Against Torture.

In the Room

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Farnoosh Hashemian, lead author of Broken Laws, Broken Lives, was recently interviewed for the Yale School of Public Health website.

_DSC9646Farnoosh Hashemian was in the room as one former detainee after another described the abuse inflicted upon them by U.S. personnel during their detention in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The men, who were all eventually released without ever being charged, recounted stories of intimidation and humiliation, and in some cases the most degrading forms of sexual abuse.

Hashemian, a 2005 graduate of the Yale School of Public Health and a human rights investigator for the Cambridge, Mass.–based Physicians for Humans Rights (PHR), used the rigorous, in–depth clinical evaluations as the core of a 130–page report that the organization released this summer. The report provides evidence of officially sanctioned or unsanctioned abuse and accuses the United States of committing war crimes for deliberately torturing detainees in its custody….

“It was very intense work. You listen while a middle–aged man sobs uncontrollably describing the brutality that became normalized in Abu Ghraib. Others tell you that to this day they suffer from the pain and the shame of sexual humiliations. Their families have been broken and their lives have been shattered,” said Hashemian. “You stare at this abyss of unimaginable human cruelty, you witness their agony, immerse yourself in their suffering, and their harrowing stories haunt you at night. We were asking people to go back to dark times. It is really, really hard to hear these stories, but it is grueling to have lived them.” …

Since the report’s release, Hashemian and colleagues have met with staff members of various U.S. senators and are working with policy makers to formulate recommendations for the next administration. In addition to new legislation that would prevent such abuses in the future, PHR also calls for anyone involved in detainee abuse to be held accountable and for reparations to be paid to the victims.

Read the rest of the article.

Nationwide SOP Screening Was a Success!

Monday, October 20th, 2008

On October 6, twenty-seven campuses around the country came together for an evening of film and discussion about the US’s use of torture. The exclusive, nationwide screening of Standard Operating Procedure, followed by a webcasted interview with Academy Award-winning filmmaker Errol Morris and lead author of PHR’s landmark report Broken Laws, Broken Lives, Farnoosh Hashemian, was a huge success and the first event of its kind. The evening brought together well over a thousand health professional students, posed and answered critical questions, and introduced new ideas for getting involved.

Thank you to all of the campuses who participated, including: Albert Einstein University; Boston University; Brown Medical School; Case Western; Chicago Medical School; Columbia Medical School; Weill Cornell; Dartmouth; Emory; George Washington University School of Medicine; Harvard Medical School; Indiana University; Johns Hopkins; Kansas University; Philadelphia College of Medicine; Rush University; St. George’s University; Tufts University; University of Michigan; University of Minnesota; University of Rochester; University of Texas, San Antonio; University of Texas, Dallas; University of Utah; Washington University; and Wright State.

The event got some attention in the Media & Arts circuit too! Read Errol Morris’ Next Doc To Be Screened For Doctors; It’s About Doctors Too in Media Bistro and Standard Operating Procedure Goes Medical, Digital in Variety.com.

Here are some photos from the event:

We also have the conversation with Morris and Hashemian available to watch and share with your friends here.

There were many more excellent questions submitted than we could answer in the time we had available, so we will have Farnoosh answer some of them in a subsequent blogpost. Please check back for that!

Finally, if you didn’t get the chance to sign the Call to Action petition, you can do so here.

Thanks to everyone who joined us from coast-to-coast to make this an electric night of unified awareness, critical thinking, and passion for human rights.

(Cross-posted on PHR Student Blog.)

More Coverage of Psychologists’ Rally at APA Convention

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008


The Boston Globe also covered Saturday’s Psychologists for an Ethical APA Rally.

Holding signs that read, “Do no harm” and “Abolish torture,” about 100 people attended a rally outside the American Psychological Association’s annual convention yesterday, urging the organizations to ban its members from being involved in military interrogations and torture as part of the war on terrorism.

A resolution to that effect is being weighed by the organization’s 148,000 members, and debate on the topic has permeated the discussion at this year’s meeting, held at the Boston Exhibition and Convention Center. Members are sending in their votes on the issue this month.

The actions of psychologists have been called into question lately as their role in the Bush administration’s interrogation policies in detention centers around the globe increasingly has been made public.

“We need to make policy changes to ensure that this never happens again,” said Steven Reisner, a New York psychologist who spoke at the rally and is running for president of the association.

He noted that psychologists’ involvement in interrogations that include prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, or sensory overload violates the primary responsibility of all medical personnel to do no harm.

“These are standard operating procedures,” Reisner said….

“Psychologists are very directly engaged,” … said [PHR President Len Rubenstein]. “Behavioral science teams make sure everything a detainee sees or hears enhances the interrogation process . . . they are involved in the whole effort to break detainees down.”

Psychologists have helped define lines of questioning for detainees, suggested techniques to get them to divulge information, and advised military personnel on when a person has had enough or when they should push harder in a confrontation. Some say such practices are tantamount to torture.

“They are really at the heart of it,” Rubenstein said. “It’s not enough to say that you can’t participate in torture, it’s the interrogations.”

200 Protest APA’s Sanction of Psychologists in Abusive Interrogations

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

USA Today reported on Saturday’s Psychologists for an Ethical APA rally, which PHR co-sponsored.

BOSTON — About 200 demonstrators rallied Saturday outside the convention hall where some 14,000 are attending the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association to protest the role of psychologists in military interrogations.

Psychologists have traditionally played a part in questioning of U.S. captives done by the military or intelligence agencies. Some psychologists have criticized such work during the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism effort as a code of ethics violation, while others say eliminating the psychologists’ participation would make the interrogations more harmful for detainees.

At the two-hour rally, groups of psychologists, including Psychologists for an Ethical APA and Psychologists for Social Responsibility, as well as human rights organizations, including representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International, blasted those psychologists for their part in the Bush administration’s practices. And they say they’re outraged over the APA’s acceptance of psychologists’ participation because of what they say are human rights violations by the government.

“Who would have thought that the APA — whose code of ethics mandates a respect for basic principles of human rights and holds psychologists ‘to a higher standard of conduct than is required by the law’ — would be so reluctant to prohibit psychologists from participating in interrogations from Guantánamo to Abu-Ghraib,” Nancy Murray of the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts told the crowd. “The APA has justified this ‘policy of engagement’ by stating its involvement is intended to stop unethical interrogations.”…

Intermingled in the crowd were protestors carrying signs with slogans such as “Do No Harm” and “No Torture/No Collaboration.”

Nathaniel Raymond of Physicians for Human Rights, a health professional organization that has been outspoken about abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, told the rally, “It’s about restoration of the values that define us. It’s not just about interrogations. It’s about who were are in the world.”

The rally was all the more poignant following Thursday’s revelation in the Daily Kos that a licensed psychologist, US Army Lieutenant Colonel Diane M. Zierhoffer, ordered the torture of a juvenile detainee at Guantanamo Bay.

The Daily Kos was quickly followed by reports in the New York Sun and the New York Times.

From the Sun:

It is the first time a military psychologist belonging to a biscuit team is publicly known to have been asked to give testimony in a Guantanamo court proceeding. The woman’s response suggests that military psychologists are concerned about either their professional licenses or criminal liability.

Court papers filed on behalf of the detainee, Mohammad Jawad, say the psychologist had, in 2003, advised an interrogator to put Mr. Jawad in isolation in an effort to facilitate interrogation, a person familiar with the detainee’s case and who has seen the unclassified legal papers said. The interrogator had sought out the psychologist’s advice because of a concern that Mr. Jawad’s mental state was deteriorating, the person said, adding that Mr. Jawad had been observed speaking to posters on his wall. The psychologist apparently rejected that layman’s diagnosis and believed Mr. Jawad was faking and recommended isolation, the person said.

Nine weeks after Mr. Jawad was removed from a month of isolation, he tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide by either hanging himself or repeatedly banging his head, the source said.

“What is so disturbing about the Jawad case,” the source said, is that the psychologist “is calibrating the level of harm.”

The Times quotes Steven Reisner, who is the front runner in the upcoming election for the new APA president.

“This is what it’s come to,” said Steven Reisner, an assistant clinical professor at the New York University School of Medicine and a leading candidate for the presidency of the psychological association. “We have psychologists taking the Fifth.”

Dr. Reisner has based his candidacy on “a principled stance against our nation’s policy of using psychologists to oversee abusive and coercive interrogations” at Guantánamo and the so-called black sites operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The ACLU’s human rights researcher, Jennifer Turner, is blogging at the Daily Kos, directly from Guantanamo, where she is covering the pre-trial hearings of Mohammed Jawad and two others. She elaborated:

[A]ccording to Jawad’s defense attorney Maj. Frakt, in September 2003, “when an interrogator observed Mohammad talking to posters on the wall of the interrogation room and was concerned about his mental health,” instead of calling a mental health professional to care for him, they summoned the BSCT team, whose psychologist made a “cruel and heartless assessment and recommendations.” Maj. Frakt called the BSCT psychologist’s report, which was classified secret and therefore not discussed in detail in the open court session, “the most chilling document of all.”

In an environment such as Guantanamo, health professional psychologists, who are healers and safeguarders against harm, have taken a back seat to behavioral scientists—whose job it is to callibrate pain and abuse.

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