Posts Tagged ‘abu ghraib’

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.]

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.

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.

Leanh Nguyen, PhD, on Evaluating a Former Abu Ghraib Detainee

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Dr. Nguyen was one of the clinical evaluators for Broken Laws, Broken Lives. She is a former refugee of the Vietnam War, and is now a psychoanalyst practicing in New York City. She holds a PhD in clinical psychology. Her clinical work is devoted to severe trauma and refugee/immigrant mental health issues.

Inadequate Dialog on What Torture Looks Like

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Today’s Boston Globe editorial focuses on Broken Laws, Broken Lives and on the restoration by the courts of habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo prisoners.

Physicians for Human Rights arranged for extensive two-day medical examinations of former detainees, none of whom was ever charged with any crimes. The detainees said they had been subject to prolonged isolation, stress positions, temperature extremes, sexual and religious humiliation, menacing dogs, and death threats. As Leonard Rubinstein, the organization’s president, said last week, these “authorized techniques” led to unauthorized beatings, electric shocks, and sexual assaults, which prove, he said, “that once torture starts, it can’t be contained.”

The report does not name those who mistreated the detainees. Identifying them, and holding them accountable, is the responsibility of the US government. In a preface to the report, General Antonio Taguba, who led the Army’s investigation of Abu Ghraib, writes, “The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.” Repairing the harm this abuse has done to the nation’s name should begin with airing the issue in the campaign and lead to the punishment of those responsible.

The Globe protests that, despite the growing evidence of torture on and other war crimes by the US and the recent court rulings affirming rights that have been long denied, the torture issue has had little discussion in the US presidential campaigns.

Although the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has blackened the image of US power around the world, the issue has garnered only passing attention so far in the presidential race….

The decision by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit followed a Supreme Court ruling June 12, which restored the habeas corpus rights the Bush administration and Congress had taken from Guantanamo prisoners. The two court decisions and the human rights report are a withering rebuke of President Bush’s policies.

Until recently, Senator John McCain, the author of an amendment to ban torture in interrogating detainees, could point to a sharp difference with Bush on this issue. But in 2006 he voted to strip prisoners of habeas corpus rights, which allow them to challenge their imprisonment in court. Earlier this year, McCain voted to sustain Bush’s veto of a bill banning the CIA from using abusive interrogation methods. Senator Barack Obama opposed the 2006 law and favored the limits on CIA interrogations.

The Globe concludes:

Repairing the harm this abuse has done to the nation’s name should begin with airing the issue in the campaign and lead to the punishment of those responsible.

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