Allen Keller, MD
When Allen Keller first drove into a Cambodian refugee camp in 1985, he was immediately impressed by the number of people there who were missing limbs, the victims of landmines. Dr. Keller remembers one man in particular: “The thing that struck me was that he wasn’t a soldier — he was a poor farmer,” Dr. Keller recalls. “When he stepped on a mine he was collecting wood for his family, out of economic necessity.”
Six years later, he returned to Cambodia with Eric Stover, then the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights, to conduct a full-scale study on the health consequences of landmines. Their work was published in the report Coward’s War: Landmines in Cambodia which was written with Human Rights Watch. The study played a pivotal role in the campaign that led ultimately to the International Mine Ban Treaty. Dr. Keller credits that early experience with inspiring his future work. “I was going to a bunch of provincial hospitals, reviewing hospital records, documenting civilian casualties,” he says. “That work has so much shaped who I am as a physician, as a human rights advocate, as well as a person.”
Today, Dr. Keller is a PHR Asylum Network member, one of its first volunteers, and continues to do medical evaluations and trains new members. He also holds the title of Associate Professor of Medicine at the New York University School of Medicine, and is the Director of the NYU Center for Health and Human Rights.
He was a co-author in PHR’s ground-breaking report on torture of detainees in US custody, Broken Laws, Broken Lives. He is internationally recognized as an expert in treatment and evaluation of torture, and co-wrote PHR's manual for Asylum Network volunteers, Examining Asylum Seekers. He has co-authored several other PHR reports, including a report on war crimes in Kosovo, and an investigation of allegations of extrajudicial executions, twenty disappearances, and forty-three cases of torture by the police of Punjab, India.
Dr. Keller calls PHR “an extraordinary organization” that he is humbled to be part of. “I’ve made so many connections and have been so nurtured through this community.”
“There’s much to be concerned about and much to be hopeful about [in the world], and my work with PHR reminds me of both. Hope doesn’t happen by chance, it requires science and vigilance. It can be a marathon, but you have to see it through.”
PHR Reports by Allen Keller, MD
- Aiding Torture: Health Professionals' Ethics and Human Rights Violations Demonstrated in the May 2004 CIA Inspector General's Report (August 31, 2009)
- From Persecution to Prison (June 1, 2003)
- War Crimes in Kosovo (August 1, 1999)
- Striking Hard (October 1, 1997)