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.