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Torture

Freedom from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment is a fundamental human right established in international law. Since its founding in 1986, PHR's core mission has included investigating and reporting on the devastating consequences of torture on individuals, institutions, and society.

Health professionals can detect signs of physical and mental abuse that are not evident to traditional investigators. Where the torturer aims to silence the victim, PHR's work validates the survivor's voice. Where the torturer hides evidence of brutality, PHR provides physical proof of the violation. And, where the torturer uses the physician as an accomplice, PHR exposes the ethical travesty.

Based on our work, PHR developed the first set of international guidelines for investigating and assessing allegations of torture and ill-treatment.

The Association for the Prevention of Torture compiles the OPCAT Database, which contains comprehensive information on all states parties and signatories to the UN torture prevention treaty - the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

US Torture

In response to US personnel's systematic infliction of psychological and physical torture against detainees, PHR seeks to restore the US commitment against torture, to ensure humane treatment of detainees, and to protect US health personnel from complicity in mistreatment and harm. PHR is also working on legislation in MA and NY to sanction health care providers who participate in acts of torture and ill treatment.

Global Anti-Torture

Despite the absolute prohibition of torture in international law, it continues to be practiced in more than 100 countries, from totalitarian regimes to democracies. Countries frequently justify the use of torture as a necessary means to extract confessions, identify terrorists, and obtain intelligence critical to preventing future violence. Convictions are difficult to achieve because torturers have become adept at inflicting suffering through methods that leave few physical marks. In 1999, PHR co-authored the first set of international guidelines (the Istanbul Protocol) for the medical documentation of torture and its consequences. Since then, PHR has trained health professionals around the world to increase the number of independent, qualified experts capable of providing forensic medical evidence of torture so that victims may obtain justice.

Asylum

Every year, more than 40,000 people flee torture and unbearable persecution in their home country and seek safety in the US. PHR provides asylum seekers with medical and psychological evaluations to highlight the scars left by torture, beatings, sexual violence, slavery, and worse. PHR also protects survivors of torture and persecution by elevating the quality of health care in immigration detention centers, reducing the use of immigration detention, and eliminating arbitrary and unjustified barriers to asylum in the US.

PHR Statement on Torture Lawsuit Settlement (August 17, 2017)

Today the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced a settlement in its historic lawsuit against the two psychologists who designed and implemented the post-9/11 CIA torture program. Physicians for Human Rights has long investigated the role of health professionals in designing, implementing, and legitimizing U.S. torture, in violation of the law and medical ethics.

PHR Statement on Post-Election Developments in Kenya (August 12, 2017)

As post-election demonstrations in Kenya continue, PHR condemns excessive use of violence against peaceful protesters as well as credible allegations that police have threatened sexual violence against Kenyans. We demand swift investigations and accountability into any wrongdoing, and call for respect for human rights on all sides.

U.S. Torture Program Constituted Illegal, Unethical Human Experimentation (June 21, 2017)

The CIA’s post-9/11 torture program – conducted at secret prisons around the globe – constituted an illegal, unethical regime of human experimentation.

Trump Administration Must Preserve Copies of Senate Torture Report (June 2, 2017)

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) objects to the Trump Administration’s move to return to Congress copies of the Senate’s 2014 report on the CIA’s torture program.

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The CIA's Program of Human Experimentation (July 24, 2017)

This June, PHR published a report showing that the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program constituted a regime of illegal human experimentation. Senior Anti-Torture Fellow Sarah Dougherty was the lead author of PHR’s latest report and explains how she came to these conclusions.

Trump’s Torture Stance Is Anti-American (February 13, 2017)

President Donald J. Trump continues to insist torture “absolutely works,” a jagged departure from fact, law, and morality. Within days of his inauguration, the White House was already circulating a draft executive order to reopen CIA “black sites” and review currently approved interrogation practices, presumably with a view to fulfilling Trump’s campaign promises to bring back waterboarding and a “hell of a lot worse.”

From Nuremberg to Guantánamo, U.S. Moral Leadership Fades (December 22, 2016)

As a psychiatrist and the child of Holocaust survivors, I struggle to fathom how a doctor — sworn to “do no harm” — could inflict such incredible pain and suffering on another human being. And yet we know today that in the post-9/11 period, doctors and other health professionals were instrumental in designing and implementing the U.S. torture program that destroyed thousands of lives and has undermined the moral standing the United States assumed in the postwar period.

Suffering Ex-Guantánamo Detainees Deserve Medical Care and Support (October 13, 2016)

The conditions at Guantánamo Bay inflicted lasting physical and psychological harm on many men. As a recent New York Times investigation shows, many men detained in CIA and military custody suffer from lasting mental and physical harm as a result of their mistreatment. They have not received support.

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Urgent Need for Independent International Inquiry on Yemen (August 2017)

PHR urges permanent representatives of member and observer states of the United Nations Human Rights Council to support the creation of an independent international investigation into violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in Yemen since the start of the current conflict.

Joint Letter to Mattis, Pompeo and McCabe. Re: US Cooperation with Abusive Allied Forces in Yemen (August 2017)

We, the undersigned human rights, civil liberties, and religious organizations, write to urge you to make public to the fullest extent possible without disclosing sources and methods, any reviews conducted by your agencies into allegations that US-allied forces of the United Arab Emirates and UAE-backed Yemeni forces have been responsible for serious abuses in Yemen.

Nuremberg Betrayed: Human Experimentation and the CIA Torture Program (June 2017)

The CIA’s post-9/11 torture program – conducted at secret prisons around the globe – constituted an illegal, unethical regime of human experimentation. According to a new report released today by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).

PHR Urges Trump to Reject Torture (January 2017)

PHR joins human rights groups in urging U.S. President Donald Trump to refrain from any executive action that would revive the use of torture or any other abusive interrogation or detention techniques.

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Featured Campaign

US doctors 'hid signs of torture' at Guantánamo

US government doctors who cared for the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay deliberately concealed or ignored evidence that their patients were being tortured, the first official study of its kind has found. Read More »

Featured Expert

Steven Reisner, PhD

Steven Reisner, PhD

Dr. Reisner has worked tirelessly to amend policies of the American Psychological Association that support psychologists’ participation in unethical military and intelligence interrogations in places such as Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, and the CIA ‘black sites’. Read More »