Posts Tagged ‘boston globe’

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.”

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.

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.

CNN, Boston Globe and Daily Kos Cover BLBL

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Broken Laws, Broken Lives has been getting major coverage from pretty much the instant of its release. In addition to the AP wire story:

Daily Kos blogger Metor Blades gave PHR’s new report fulsome coverage on the front page of the most trafficked political blog on the internet.

It is impossible to escape a mixture of sadness and fury while reading the 149 horrific pages of the just-released report published by Physicians for Human Rights and called Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by the US. Sadness for the victims. Fury for the fact that American citizens have paid for the ghastly criminal acts of guards and interrogators at U.S.-run prisons in Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, and Afghanistan. Sadness that Americans are now seen as torturers worldwide. Fury that high officials who ordered these acts are not digging holes and filling them up every day on some penal atoll.

The torture those officials authorized has been revealed over the years in bits and pieces. We’ve seen the photographs. Newspaper stories, magazine articles and a dozen books have been written. There have been previous scathing reports, including two by PHR. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights have delved into the matter. There was, of course, the Army’s 2004 investigation into what happened at Abu Ghraib. And, better late than never, Senator Carl Levin began presiding Tuesday over three days of hearings on the subject, Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody.

For the first time, however, Broken Laws, Broken Lives has added grim evidence gleaned from medical tests, both physical and psychological, of 11 former detainees. Unique stories, but with a theme that cannot – and must not – be ignored. The evidence was gathered and evaluated under strict internationally recognized standards and procedures for determining whether someone has been tortured or ill-treated and for documenting the consequences in a manner so that the results can be used in court. These standards are part of the Istanbul Protocol, Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted by the United Nations in 1999.

Towards his conclusion, Blades reflects:

Broken Laws, Broken Lives makes for nightmare reading. But it is imperative that it be read. And acted upon.

You can download free copies of the full report or the Executive Summary on the home page of this site.

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