Posts Tagged ‘afghanistan’

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.

Army Psychologist Uses Right to Not Self-Incriminate in Matter of Gitmo Torture of a Juvenile

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Daily Kos dairist Metor Blades has broken an explosive story concerning US torture policy.

In a hearing Thursday to dismiss charges in the second war crimes trial at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Diane M. Zierhoffer, a licensed psychologist who had ordered the torture of a juvenile detainee, refused to testify under Section 831, Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 31 prohibits compulsory self-incrimination as a right under the Fifth Amendment.

The detainee in question is Mohammed Jawad.

The Pakistani-born Jawad, who was 16 or 17 at the time of his capture, allegedly tossed a grenade at a U.S. convoy in December 2002….

Jawad had been tortured physically at Bagram, where his nose may have been broken, and by means of threats, linguistic and physical isolation, as well as sleep deprivation at Gitmo. Twice, Jawad was kept in extreme isolation for 30 days. Sleep deprivation and prolonged periods of isolation are widely recognized as torture by non-governmental organizations, human rights groups, governments, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the U.S. State Department, and federal courts as well as state courts.

The leadership of the American Psychlogical Association has frequently asserted that psychologists have an important role to play in interrogations.

A psychologist on scene can guard against the behavioral drift that is often seen when human beings are taxed to their emotional limits. In doing so, that psychologist is assisting these young people in uniform while also safeguarding the welfare of detainees.

This was not the function played by Zierhoffer during the interrogation of Mohammed Jawad. To the contrary, according to Blades’ sources:

[W]hen an interrogator came to Zierhoffer and said he thought the techniques being applied to Jawad should be temporarily halted because they were causing him to dissociate, to crack up without providing good information, she recommended that the torture continue.

The APA has said that “psychologists have a critical role in keeping interrogations safe, legal, ethical and effective.” In a letter to the APA yesterday, PHR countered that

It is past time for the APA to explicitly and categorically reject the use of psychologists and psychology to perpetrate a widespread, command-ordered program of torture and abuse. General statements opposing torture fail to fully address the reality of what psychologists have done.

PHR’s CEO Frank Donaghue elaborated:

The APA must hold psychologists who were involved in the abuse and torture of detainees in U.S. custody accountable. The APA should implement critical reforms to its ethics code.  On the top the list is ensuring that psychologists be required to adhere to the highest ethical standards, rather than be allowed to descend to the lowest interpretations of the law.

The APA’s annual convention is now underway in Boston. On Saturday, PHR will speak at a rally of Psychologists for an Ethical APA (PDF flyer), from noon to 2 pm this Saturday at the Hynes Convention Center, 415 Summer Street, Boston. Please join us if you are in the area.

Stephen Soldz Op-Ed on the Need for Ethical Standards to End Torture by Psychologists

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Our colleague, Stephen Soldz, has published a timely op-ed in the Boston Globe on the involvement of psychologists in torture and other abuses.

Ending the psychological mind games on detainees

When most people think of psychologists, they think of a professional helping them with life’s emotional difficulties, or of a researcher studying human or animal behavior. Since the Bush administration and the war on terrorism have transformed our country, however, a new, more ominous image of psychologists has slowly seeped into public consciousness

Psychologists have been identified as key figures in the design and conduct of abuses against detainees in US custody at Guantanamo Bay, the CIA’s secret “black sites,” and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Psychologists should not be taking part in such practices.

Yet a steady stream of revelations from government documents, journalistic reports, and congressional hearings has revealed that psychologists designed the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques, which included locking prisoners in tiny cages in the fetal position, throwing them against the wall head first, prolonged nakedness, sexual humiliation, and waterboarding….
When reports of these abuses surfaced, we psychologists looked to our largest professional organization, the American Psychological Association, to take the lead in condemning them and taking measures to ensure that they would not recur. After all, these actions by psychologists violate the central principle of the APA’s ethics code: “Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm.”

The APA, however, failed to take clear action. While the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association quickly and unequivocally condemned any involvement by its membership in such activities, APA leaders quibbled over whether psychologists had been present at the interrogations and questioned the motives of internal critics….

This month, ballots went out for a first-ever referendum to call a halt to psychologist participation in sites where international law is violated. And dissident New York psychologist Steven Reisner, a founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, is running for the APA presidency. His principal campaign platform is for psychologists to be banned from participating in interrogations at US military detention centers, like Guantanamo Bay, that violate human rights and function outside of the Geneva Conventions. In the nomination phase Reisner received the most votes of the five candidates.

At our annual convention in Boston this month, other APA members and I will rally against association policies encouraging participation in detainee interrogations. We will be joined by community activists, human rights groups, and civil libertarians to demand that APA return to its fundamental principle of “Do no harm.” Psychologists owe it to their profession and to the cause of human rights to oppose abuses, not participate in them.

(Read the whole article at the Boston Globe.)

If you are in Boston, please join PHR at the Psychologists for an Ethical APA rally (PDF flyer), from noon to 2 pm this Saturday at the Hynes Convention Center, 415 Summer Street, Boston, where the the APA is holding its national convention.

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