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For Immediate Release

PHR Praises President Obama's Executive Orders Ending Illegal US Detention and Interrogation Program; Accountability for Perpetrators of Torture Still Needed

Cambridge, Mass - 01/22/2009

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) praises President Obama for signing historic executive orders today that end the US' illegal detention and interrogation program, marking a clear departure from the abuses of the past administration and a return to the rule of law.

"PHR applauds President Obama's swift action to reclaim America's legacy as a nation committed to the rule of law," said Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer of PHR. "The reforms enacted today represents a victory for human rights and a blow against the use of torture."

Despite today's major progress, additional work remains to be done. PHR calls on President Obama and Congress to immediately authorize a non-partisan commission to investigate the authorization, legal justification, and implementation of the Bush Administration's regime of psychological and physical torture. Any accountability mechanism must include a subgroup tasked with investigating the participation of health professionals in detainee abuse. Additionally, any evidence that U.S. officials violated anti-torture law should be turned over to the Department of Justice.

"The desire to turn the page on the past seven years of detainee abuse and torture by US forces is understandable," Donaghue said. "However, President Obama, Congress and the health professions will not have fulfilled their obligation to the Constitution and medical ethics if we settle only for reform without accountability."

PHR urges the Obama Administration to end the use of Behavioral Science Consultants (BSCs) in interrogations. The continued use of BSCs violates medical ethics and subverts the traditions of the healing professions. Any procedures currently in place involving health professionals in interrogations which violate medical ethics should be prohibited.

"The past administration's weaponization of the health professions to inflict harm on detainees constitutes a war crime unto itself," said Donaghue. "Despite all that has been disclosed so far about abuses committed by health professionals, many questions remain, chief among them is whether there will be any accountability for gross violations of medical ethics and the law."

Additionally, PHR also calls on the task force appointed by the president to review US interrogation and transfer policies to revoke Appendix M of the Army Field Manual. This section allows the use of sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and isolation—tactics which can constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under U.S. and international law. PHR encourages the task force to consult with human rights organizations as part of the review process.

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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