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For Immediate Release

Psychologists Prohibited from Abusive US Detention Centers

Cambridge, Mass - 09/17/2008

The following is a statement from Frank Donaghue, CEO of Physicians for Human Rights, in response to the prohibition passed today by the American Psychological Association's (APA) membership on psychologist participation at detention facilities that do not adhere to international human rights standards:

"Today PHR salutes the American Psychological Association (APA) membership for restoring the APA's commitment to human rights and medical ethics. For years, the APA has failed to fully address US psychologists' involvement in torture in Iraq, at Guantanamo Bay, and CIA black sites. This historic vote has moved the APA closer to joining the ranks of the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, which have repudiated health professional involvement in interrogations.

"This turn-around follows revelations by the media and Congress of the central role psychologists played in the design, supervision, and implementation of a regime of psychological and physical torture against detainees held in CIA and Department of Defense custody. For example, CIA psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen have been implicated in the torture of Abu Zubaydah and others. In addition, a U.S. Army psychologist, Lt. Colonel Diane M. Zierhoffer, last month refused to testify about her involvement in the torture of Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, who was captured as a juvenile in 2002.

"Since 2005, PHR has been a leading voice in the campaign to end all health professional involvement in US national security interrogations. The Bush Administration's use of the healing professions as key parts of a wide-spread system of detainee torture and abuse threatens the very foundations of medical ethics. Today, in the largest voter turnout in APA history and by a 17% margin, the membership of the APA struck a blow against medical complicity in torture."

To read more about PHR's Campaign Against Torture, visit

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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