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PHR Participates in Civil Society Consultation in Preparation for the US Review before the Committee Against Torture

by Andrea Gittleman, JD on June 14, 2011

As a state party to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the United States must regularly report to the Committee Against Torture regarding its adherence to the Convention. The Committee reviews the progress of each state party on a regular basis and issues observations and recommendations about the state’s practices regarding torture. The United States must submit information regarding its own CAT-related policies to the Committee next month. To help prepare its submission, representatives from the State Department met with civil society organizations including Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).

Hans Hogrefe, PHR’s Chief Policy Officer, shared detailed information about PHR’s work related to its Campaign Against Torture, including the problems facing women in immigration detention, the involvement of medical professionals in interrogations, and the importance of training medical professionals to recognize and document instances of torture and related abuse. PHR also highlighted the dilemma of “dual loyalties” which occurs when medical professionals need to negotiate competing duties to their patient and to their employer. 

In our remarks to the State Department, PHR called on the Obama Administration to conduct a full investigation into the involvement of medical professionals in interrogations, including their involvement in experimentation on detainees in US custody. PHR also called on the Administration to standardize health standards at detention facilities and increase accountability for the quality and sufficiency of medical care for detainees in immigration detention.

Harold Koh, Legal Adviser to the State Department, was thankful for the information provided by the civil society organizations and promised to use the information to turn the page in our nation’s history of abuse.

PHR is thankful that the State Department held this important consultation and that civil society groups had the opportunity to influence the US Government’s responses to the Committee Against Torture. We remain hopeful that the US government will use recommendations from PHR and partner groups to usher in accountability for acts of torture and prevent future abuse.


Places: United States

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