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For Immediate Release

Media Advisory: PHR Experts Available to Comment on Torture

Cambridge, Mass - 04/22/2009

What: Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and its Campaign Against Torture have a number of internationally recognized doctors and psychologists who are experts on the physical and psychological effects of torture and who are available to comment on the participation of health professionals in abusive and illegal interrogations. In the wake of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s (SASC) report on detainee abuse, PHR is calling for the psychologists who justified, designed, and implemented torture for the CIA and Department of Defense to lose their professional licenses and face criminal prosecution.

Who: PHR’s experts on torture include:

  • Scott Allen, MD, Medical Advisor for Physicians for Human Rights’ Campaign Against Torture. Dr. Allen was the lead researcher for PHR’s report, “Leave No Marks” and has testified at congressional hearings on the legal and ethical implications of so-called “enhanced” interrogation techniques. He worked with PHR to press the American Medical Association (AMA), the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare (NCCHC) and the American Psychological Association (APA) to prohibit health professionals’ complicity in such practices.
  • Vince Iacopino, MD, PhD, Senior Medical Advisor to PHR. He is also Adjunct Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota. Iacopino has participated in health and human rights research, investigations and advocacy for more than sixteen years. He represented PHR and supervised medical fact-finding investigations to Thailand, Punjab, Kashmir, Turkey, South Africa, Afghanistan, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Mexico, Botswana, Swaziland, Iraq, Sudan and the United States, and documented the health consequences of a wide range of human rights violations.
  • Allen Keller, MD, Advisor to PHR. He co-authored PHR’s ground-breaking report, “Broken Laws, Broken Lives”. Dr. Keller is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the New York University School of Medicine, and the Director of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture and the NYU School of Medicine Center for Health and Human Rights. Dr. Keller is recognized internationally as an expert in the documentation, evaluation and treatment of torture victims.
  • Steven Reisner, PhD, Psychological Ethics Advisor to PHR. He is a founding member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. Dr. Reisner has actively worked to change the policy of the American Psychological Association’s support of psychologists’ participation in coercive or abusive military or intelligence interrogations at places like Abu Ghraib, CIA ‘black sites’ and Guantánamo Bay. Dr. Reisner is Adjunct Professor for the Program in Clinical Psychology and Senior Advisor at the International Trauma Studies Program at Columbia University, and Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the New York University Medical School.

Why: The newly declassified SASC report makes clear that long before Justice Department lawyers were tasked to justify torture, US psychologists were busy perpetrating it. PHR maintains that such individuals must face prosecution for breaking the law and must lose their professional licenses for betraying their profession’s ethics.

The SASC report (PDF 15MB) is the most comprehensive account so far of the Bush Administration’s regime of torture and the central role health professionals played in it. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chair of SASC, is calling for the Department of Justice to review the report and pursue any evidence of criminal wrong-doing, a move which PHR supports.

PHR is renewing its call to Congress and the White House to immediately create a non-partisan commission to investigate the Bush Administration’s use of torture, with specific focus on the role that psychologists and medical professionals played in its design, justification, supervision, and use.

Since 2005, PHR has documented the systematic use of psychological and physical torture by US personnel against detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Bagram airbase, and elsewhere in three groundbreaking reports: Break Them Down, Leave No Marks, and Broken Laws, Broken Lives. The organization has repeatedly called for an end to the use of SERE tactics by US personnel, an end to the use of Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCT), and called for a non-partisan commission to investigate the US Government’s use of torture. Additionally, PHR has worked to mobilize the health professional community, particularly the professional associations, to adopt strong ethical prohibitions against direct participation in interrogations.

[Editors, please note: headshots and full bios of PHR’s experts on torture are available online at http://phrblog.org/bios-and-photos-of-phr-experts-on-torture/ To arrange an interview, please contact Jonathan Hutson, jhutson[at]phrusa[dot]org or 857-919-5130.]

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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