Archive for the ‘press release’ Category

PHR: After Senate Report, Psychologists Who Tortured Must Be Held to Account

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contacts:
Jonathan Hutson
jhutson [at] phrusa [dot] org
Tel: (617) 301-4210
Cell: (857) 919-5130

In the wake of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s (SASC) report on detainee abuse, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is calling for the psychologists who justified, designed, and implemented torture for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Department of Defense (DoD), to lose their professional licenses and to face criminal prosecution.

“Long before Justice Department lawyers were tasked to justify torture, US psychologists were busy actually perpetrating it,” said Steven Reisner, PhD, Advisor on Psychological Ethics at PHR. “These individuals must not only face prosecution for breaking the law, they must lose their licenses for shaming their profession’s ethics.”

The SASC report is the latest and most comprehensive account of the Bush Administration’s regime of torture and the central role health professionals played. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chair of SASC, is calling for the Department of Justice to review the report and pursue any evidence of criminal wrongdoing, a move that PHR supports.

“The Senate Armed Services Committee confirms what we have long known—health professionals were the agents that spread the virus of torture,” said Nathaniel Raymond, Director of PHR’s Campaign Against Torture which brings together thousands of health professionals who oppose torture in all circumstances. “Now is the time for those who violated our laws and our values to be held to account.”

PHR is renewing its call to Congress and the White House to immediately create a non-partisan commission to investigate the Bush Administration’s use of torture, with a specific focus on the role that psychologists and medical professionals played in its design, justification, supervision, and use.

“A non-partisan commission is required if the American people are to know the truth about our nation’s descent into torture,” said John Bradshaw, JD, PHR’s Washington Director.  “Congress must move quickly and show the world that we are serious about restoring our reputation as a nation that defends human rights and the rule of law.”

PHR urges human rights supporters to sign its online petition calling for the establishment of a commission to investigate US torture and hold health professionals accountable.

Since 2005, PHR has documented the systematic use of psychological and physical torture by US personnel against detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Bagram airbase, and elsewhere in its groundbreaking reports, Break Them Down, Leave No Marks, and Broken Laws, Broken Lives. The Senate report confirms the use of abusive and illegal interrogation techniques documented in these PHR reports. These techniques include:

  • beating
  • sexual and cultural humiliation
  • forced nakedness
  • exposure to extreme temperatures
  • exploitation of phobias
  • sleep deprivation
  • sensory deprivation and sensory overload
  • prolonged isolation
  • threats of imminent harm

Physicians for Human Rights has repeatedly called for an end to the use of Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) interrogation tactics by US personnel, an end to the use of Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCT) teams, and called for a non-partisan commission to investigate the US government’s use of torture. Additionally, PHR has worked to mobilize the health professional community, particularly the professional associations, to adopt strong ethical prohibitions against direct participation in interrogations.

[Editors, please note: PHR has four leading experts on torture—physicians and psychologists who have investigated torture by US forces, studied the physical and psychological consequences, and advocated to hold health professionals accountable. To arrange an interview, please contact Jonathan Hutson, jhutson[at]phrusa[dot]org or 857-919-5130.]

Covert CIA Detention Center on British Soil Revealed

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

PHR Demands Trans-Atlantic Investigation and International Red Cross Access to All Detainees in US Custody

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) calls for a full trans-Atlantic investigation by Congress and the Parliament of the United Kingdom in the wake of today’s revelation by TIME magazine that the US covertly used Diego Garcia, a British island off the coast of India, as a top secret CIA detention center. Further, PHR demands that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) be given immediate access to all detainees that may still be held at Diego Garcia and other “black” site locations.

“The US and the UK must at last come clean about the scope of extraordinary rendition and secret detention—a violation of American and British law, human rights standards, and the rules and regulations of NATO,” stated Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer of PHR. “Both Congress and Parliament must set the record straight about what happened at Diego Garcia. PHR knows from our twenty-one year history of documenting torture around the world that secret detention opens the floodgates to torture and other gross human rights abuses.”

The disclosure that Diego Garcia held CIA “ghost” detainees, such as Riduan Isamuddin, commonly known as “Hambali”, shows that General Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA, provided false information to senior members of the British Government. Director Hayden assured the Brown Government earlier this year that only two rendition flights had refueled at Diego Garcia. According to TIME, however, senior Bush Administration officials had been previously informed about the existence and use of the facility in highly classified briefings in the White House situation room.

“The Bush Administration’s detainee treatment and interrogation policies have damaged our nation’s reputation as human rights leader,” said Donaghue. “Seven years of secrets whispered in secret rooms must give way to on-the-record testimony and open hearings.”

PHR calls on the House and Senate committees on Intelligence and Armed Services to hold CIA Director Hayden and senior Bush Administration officials accountable. PHR also calls on Parliament to determine what current Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, current Foreign Secretary David Miliband, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, and other members of the Privy Council knew about US detention activities at Diego Garcia and when they knew it.

Since the publication of its landmark report in 2005 documenting the use of torture against detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Break Them Down: Systematic Use of Psychological Torture by US Forces, PHR has been a leading voice in the effort to end the use of abusive interrogation techniques during interrogations of detainees held by the US military and intelligence services. PHR published in June the report Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of US Torture and its Impact, an analysis of medical and psychological evaluations of detainees held at US detention facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.,

Kristof Calls for a National Truth Commission on Torture

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

In this morning’s New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof responds to Major General Antonio Taguba’s call for accountability in the Preface to Broken Laws, Broken Lives.

When a distinguished American military commander accuses the United States of committing war crimes in its handling of detainees, you know that we need a new way forward.

“There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes,” Antonio Taguba, the retired major general who investigated abuses in Iraq, declares in a powerful new report on American torture from Physicians for Human Rights. “The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

The first step of accountability isn’t prosecutions. Rather, we need a national Truth Commission to lead a process of soul searching and national cleansing.

That was what South Africa did after apartheid, with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and it is what the United States did with the Kerner Commission on race and the 1980s commission that examined the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Today, we need a similar Truth Commission, with subpoena power, to investigate the abuses in the aftermath of 9/11.

Kristof lists some of the reasons why a truth commission is called for:

It’s a national disgrace that more than 100 inmates have died in American custody in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo. After two Afghan inmates were beaten to death by American soldiers, the American military investigator found that one of the men’s legs had been “pulpified.”

Moreover, many of the people we tortured were innocent: the administration was as incompetent as it was immoral. The McClatchy newspaper group has just published a devastating series on torture and other abuses, and it quotes Thomas White, the former Army secretary, as saying that it was clear from the moment Guantánamo opened that one-third of the inmates didn’t belong there.

McClatchy says that one inmate, Mohammed Akhtiar, was known as pro-American to everybody but the American soldiers who battered him. Some of his militant fellow inmates spit on him, beat him and called him “infidel,” all because of his anti-Taliban record.

Kristof mentions in passing the fundamental problem:

[T]he US military taught interrogation techniques borrowed verbatim from records of Chinese methods used to break American prisoners in the Korean War — even though we knew that these torture techniques produced false confessions.

The SERE program, through which such techniques were adapted and disseminated as a matter of policy, fostered an environment in which torture appears to have become standard operating procedure. As PHR President Len Rubenstein has said, “once torture starts it can’t be contained.” Despite the many earlier revelations, Broken Laws, Broken Lives provides medical evidence of such abuses. With only 11 former detainees as the subjects, the report may only be scratching the surface.

The truth must be told, the criminals prosecuted and, as PHR CEO Frank Donaghue emphasizes, reparations to the victims must be made, including compensation and medical and psycho-social services.

Medical Evidence Supports Detainees’ Accounts of Torture in US Custody

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Cambridge, Mass. (PRWEB) June 18, 2008 — Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has published a landmark report documenting medical evidence of torture and ill-treatment inflicted on 11 men detained at US facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay, who were never charged with any crime. The physical and psychological evaluation of the detainees and documentation of the crimes are based on internationally accepted standards for clinical assessment of torture claims. The report also details the severe physical and psychological pain and long-term disability that has resulted from abusive and unlawful US interrogation practices.

“Rigorous clinical evaluations confirm the enormous and enduring toll of agony and anguish inflicted for months by US personnel on eleven men who were detained without any charge or explanation,” stated PHR President Leonard Rubenstein. “Their first-hand accounts, now confirmed by medical and psychological examinations, take us behind the photographs to write a missing chapter of America’s descent into the shameful practice and official policy of systematic torture.”

Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact documents practices used to bring about excruciating pain, terror, humiliation, and shame for months on end. These practices included, but were not limited to:

  • Suspensions and other stress positions;
  • Routine isolation;
  • Sleep deprivation combined with sensory bombardment and temperature extremes;
  • Sexual humiliation and forced nakedness;
  • Sodomy;
  • Beatings;
  • Denial of medical care;
  • Electric shock;
  • Involuntary medication; and
  • Threats to their lives and families.

In the foreword to the report, Maj. General Antonio Taguba (USA-Ret.), who led the U.S. Army’s investigation into the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse scandal, wrote: “After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

“Ending the use of torture, while essential, is not enough. The United States government must make this right. Those responsible for these abuses must help heal the grievous harm inflicted in our name,” said PHR CEO Frank Donaghue. “PHR is calling for full investigation, accountability, an official apology, and reparations, including medical and psychological treatment for the survivors.”

US Torture of Detainees Caused Severe Pain, Long-Term Suffering

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Cambridge, Mass. (PRWEB) June 18, 2008 – A team of doctors and psychologists convened by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) to conduct intensive clinical evaluations of 11 former detainees held in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay has found that these men suffered torture and ill-treatment by US personnel, which resulted in severe pain and long-term disability. The men were ultimately released from US custody without charge or explanation.

“The horrific consequences of US detention and interrogation policy are indelibly written on the bodies and minds of the former detainees in scars, debilitating injuries, humiliating memories and haunting nightmares,” states Dr. Allen Keller, Director of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture and a contributor to PHR’s report Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact. “Physical and psychological evidence clearly supports the detainees’ first-hand accounts of cruelty, inhuman treatment, degradation, and torture.”

“The poignant case studies focus on the profound and lasting consequences of cruelty at the hands of US personnel,” said Farnoosh Hashemian, MPH, PHR Research Associate and lead author of the report. “The detainees suffer permanent hearing loss, persistent and debilitating pain in limbs and joints, major depressive disorder, severe post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks.”

One Iraqi detainee, Laith, recounted that during his initial detention in an unknown prison, he was brutally beaten and kicked until he lost consciousness. In Abu Ghraib, he was kept naked for almost a month in a variety of stress positions in isolation in a small, dark cell wearing soiled underwear and was subjected to lengthy interrogations.

On one occasion he was brought to see his brother who was bleeding, naked, and humiliated. The most painful experience for Laith was the threat of rape of his mother and sisters: “They were saying, ‘you will hear your mothers and sisters when we are raping them [here].’”

These men also continue to endure profound disruptions in their social and family lives. Many live with an abiding sense of shame caused by the loss of their ability to protect and provide for their families. And several men told medical evaluators of their desire to relocate, stemming from their loss of a sense of safety, since they had been arrested without charge or to avoid the frequent reminders of their harrowing detention experiences.

The report calls for full investigation and remedies, including accountability for war crimes, and reparation, such as compensation, medical care and psycho-social services.

Physicians for Human Rights, 2 Arrow Street, Suite 301, Cambridge, MA 02138 | brokenlives[at]phrusa[dot]org | Tel 617.301.4219