Skip to Main Content
Printer Friendly Home > Issues > Torture > US Torture

US Torture

In early 2003, when reports of torture by US military personnel began to surface publicly, PHR committed to investigating allegations of US torture, advocating against its practice and mobilizing health professionals to advocate for an end to these abuses.

As evidence of US national security interrogation practices emerged, it became clear that psychologically abusive methods of interrogation were at the core of US intelligence gathering.

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.

More about PHR's work in stopping torture and bringing about accountability:

>> Psychological and Physical Torture

>> PHR's Papers and Reports on US Torture

>> MA and NY Legislation to Sanction Health Professionals Who Torture

American Psychological Association Maintains Ban on Psychologists at Guantanámo (August 8, 2018)

The American Psychological Association (APA) today voted to keep a ban on military psychologists at Guantanámo Bay prison, maintaining its firm ethical standards at detention sites that violate international law. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) called the vote a resounding victory for human rights.

PHR Signs Joint NGO Letter to APA Opposing Proposal to Weaken Anti-Torture Ethics Protections in National Security Detention for Psychologists (August 6, 2018)

We, the undersigned human rights and civil liberties organizations, are deeply concerned that the American Psychological Association (APA) is considering rolling back critical protections instituted to safeguard psychologists from complicity in torture and abuse and to facilitate ethical and independent mental health care for detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention center.1 We urge the APA not to take that step.

Letter from former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez urging APA to maintain ban on military psychologists at Guantanamo (August 6, 2018)

Former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Juan E. Méndez has issued a letter to the American Psychological Association (APA) in advance of its August 2018 annual meeting, urging it to reject the proposed amendment to its policy on the role of military and operational psychologists in detention facilities.

Letter to APA Opposing Proposal to Weaken Anti-Torture Ethics Protections in National Security Detention for Psychologists (August 6, 2018)

We write to express our deep concern over proposed changes to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) policy on the role of psychologists in national security detention settings. This resolution, scheduled for a Council vote at the August 2018 meeting and closely monitored by the human rights community, would undermine APA’s hard-won position against torture and ill-treatment. We therefore urge you to reject NBI 35B and instead continue on the path of supporting ethical practice and human rights protections for national security detainees.

More Torture News »

Psychologists: Recognize the Stain that is Guantánamo (August 7, 2018)

The U.S. psychology profession and its largest organization, the American Psychological Association, have been roiled by controversy for more than a decade. What are the proper roles for military and intelligence psychologists in national security interrogations and at Guantánamo and other detention sites that violate international law?

The Facts About Gina Haspel and Why We Should Oppose Her Appointment as CIA Head (May 9, 2018)

On the morning of her confirmation hearing, virtually nothing is known about Gina Haspel, President Trump’s choice to lead the CIA. The agency has kept nearly every detail of her background a secret from the public and from Congress – an effort ultimately overseen by Haspel herself, as acting CIA director. But based on public sources, we know this: Haspel held leadership roles in the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program and, as such, holds the shameful distinction of having helped the United States physically and mentally break human beings.

We have evaluated torture survivors. Gina Haspel cannot head the CIA. (May 7, 2018)

For years, much has been reported on the abhorrent practice of waterboarding during the United States’ “War on Terror” – but, until recently, less has been said about other forms of torture that were perpetrated by Americans on CIA detainees. With the nomination of Gina Haspel for CIA director, the spotlight has now been shone on a notorious CIA “black site” prison, the name and location of which are widely known in open sources but which officially remain classified.

10 Reasons Health Professionals Should Oppose Gina Haspel as CIA Director (April 27, 2018)

On May 9, the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a confirmation hearing to consider Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to head the CIA. A fair hearing is impossible, given the agency’s campaign to ensure Haspel’s promotion and conceal her involvement in its post-9/11 torture program.

More Torture Posts »

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.

Letter to U.S. Senate on Indefinite Detention (June 2016)

As Congress considers Guantánamo-related provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2017, the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, the Center for Victims of Torture, and Physicians for Human Rights sent a letter to the U.S. Senate calling for an end to indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Truth Matters: Accountability for CIA Psychological Torture (December 2015)

One year after the Senate torture report’s partial release, transparency and accountability – let alone redress to victims – remain stalled. The U.S. government must end the cover-up of torture and ill-treatment and honor its obligation to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

More Torture Research »

Our Work

Broken Laws, Broken Lives

PHR's report details for the first time medical evidence confirming first-hand accounts of men who endured torture by US personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay. These men were never charged with any crime. Read More »