Posts Tagged ‘leonard rubenstein’

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.”

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.

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.

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.”

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