Posts Tagged ‘allen keller’

BLBL Co-Author Allen Keller on Democracy Now!

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Allen Keller, MD discussed some of the findings of Broken Laws, Broken Lives the day after its release, on Democracy Now! Dr. Keller was one of the clinical evaluators and a co-author for the report. 

At one point in the interview, Democracy Now’s Juan Gonzales recounted some of the horrific abuses suffered by two of the detainees examined for Broken Laws, Broken Lives. Regarding the second detainee, Gonzales said:

Yussef, who was captured in Afghanistan, talked about being subjected to electric shock from a generator, feeling, quote, “as if my veins were being pulled out.” So this was really not only borderline examples of torture; this was actual physical torture that was occurring here against some of these men. 

Dr. Keller responded:

Absolutely. And it’s important, though, to note, you don’t necessarily have to lay a glove on someone for it to be torture. Sleep deprivation, all of these, quote, “enhanced” interrogation methods have devastating health consequences. 

This is an important point, often lost in discussions of US torture policy. PHR’s 2005 report, Break Them Down: Systematic Use of Psychological Torture by US Forces, goes into more detail about the false distinction between physical and psychological torture.

Psychological torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment can have extremely destructive health consequences for detainees. The effects can include memory impairment, reduced capacity to concentrate, somatic complaints such as headache and back pain, hyperarousal, avoidance, and irritability. Additionally, victims often experience severe depression with vegetative symptoms, nightmares, and “feelings of shame and humiliation” associated with sexual violations, among others.

Although these short- and long-term consequences can be debilitating, the suffering of victims of psychological torture is often disregarded because they do not have physical evidence of the abuse they suffered. The lack of physical signs can make psychological torture seem less significant than physical torture, but the consensus among those who study torture and rehabilitate its victims is that psychological torture can be more painful and cause more severe and long-lasting damage even than the pain inflicted during physical torture. Indeed, as the UN Special Rapporteur on torture pointed out:

Often a distinction is made between physical and mental torture. This distinction, however, seems to have more relevance for the means by which torture is practised than for its character. Almost invariably the effect of torture, by whatever means it may have been practised, is physical and psychological. Even when the most brutal physical means are used, the long- term effects may be mainly psychological, even when the most refined psychological means are resorted to, there is nearly always the accompanying effect of severe physical pain. A common effect is the disintegration of the personality.

Break Them Down is available for free download here.

Democracy Now! has published a transcript of Dr. Keller’s appearance on the show

Torture and Abuse Second to None

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

In Wendesday’s Reuters article on Broken Laws, Broken Lives, reporter Deborah Charles spoke to one of the medical evaluators and report co-author Allen Keller and to PHR President Len Rubenstein

Dr. Keller is recognized internationally as an expert in the documentation, evaluation and treatment of torture victims. Since 1995, he has directed the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture and has worked with countless refugees and asylum seekers who were victims of torture. Speaking about the seven men evaluated for the report who had been prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Keller said:

As a physician with more than 15 years of experience evaluating and caring for torture victims from all over the world, the torture and abuse these men were subjected to in Abu Ghraib and the resulting trauma are second to none.

Len Rubenstein elaborated:

“Another key finding is that the authorized techniques, many of which themselves amount to torture, begat yet additional forms of torture, proving once again that once torture starts it can’t be contained,” Rubenstein said.

The report gave one example of the case of a man named Amir, who was arrested by U.S. forces in Iraq in August 2003.

Amir said while at Abu Ghraib prison he was placed in a foul-smelling room and forced to lay face down in urine while he was hit and kicked. He was also sodomized with a broomstick and forced to howl like a dog while a soldier urinated on him. After a soldier stepped on his genitals, he fainted.

Rubenstein also emphasized one of the key findings in Broken Laws, Broken Lives. Beyond the immediate “gratuitous cruelty” inflicted on the former detainees, the men have  continued to suffer for years, long after their release from US custody. 

Amir continues to experience physical and psychological symptoms nearly four years after being released, the report said.

Rubenstein said the report showed the extent of the men’s pain and suffering — now and at the time of their detention.

“The pain from the beatings and stress positions, including suspension, combined with feelings of humiliation and shame was so bad it led seven men to consider suicide despite prohibitions in the Muslim religion,” he said

Broken Laws, Broken Lives Receives AP Coverage

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

From today’s Associated Press:

Medical examinations of former terrorism suspects held by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, found evidence of torture and other abuse that resulted in serious injuries and mental disorders, according to a human rights group.

For the most extensive medical study of former U.S. detainees published so far, Physicians for Human Rights had doctors and mental health professionals examine 11 former prisoners. The group alleges finding evidence of U.S. torture and war crimes and accuses U.S. military health professionals of allowing the abuse of detainees, denying them medical care and providing confidential medical information to interrogators that they then exploited.

“Some of these men really are, several years later, very severely scarred,” said Barry Rosenfeld, a psychology professor at Fordham University who conducted psychological tests on six of the 11 detainees covered by the study. “It’s a testimony to how bad those conditions were and how personal the abuse was.”

One Iraqi prisoner, identified only as Yasser, reported being subjected to electric shocks three times and being sodomized with a stick. His thumbs bore round scars consistent with shocking, according to the report obtained by The Associated Press. He would not allow a full rectal exam.

In addition to interviewing Dr. Rosenfeld, the AP interviewed Allen Keller, MD, a member of the PHR’s Advisory Council and Director of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture.

“The level of the time, thoroughness and rigor of the exams left me personally without question about the credibility of the individuals,” said Dr. Allen Keller, one of the doctors who conducted the exams, in an interview with the AP. “The findings on the physical and psychological exams were consistent with what they reported.”

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