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For Immediate Release

Obama's Guantanamo Policy Condemned by PHR

Indefinite detention can cause psychological harm and should not be formal US policy

Cambridge, Mass - 03/10/2011

Cambridge, Mass. – March 10, 2011 – PHR condemns President Barack Obama’s recent announcement that military trials would resume for detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The decision formalizes the use of indefinite detention and marks a stark reversal from the President’s initial promise to close the controversial prison.

Upon entering office, the President called for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. However, soon after, Obama began to advocate for a new law of "preventive detention,” which allows the United States to imprison people indefinitely and without charges.

"To formalize this appalling policy of holding people forever without ever telling them why goes against American values of justice,” said Frank Donaghue, CEO of Physicians for Human Rights. "We are not only denying these detainees due process, but engaging in policies that can cause serious psychological harm.”

Research increasingly indicates that indefinite detention causes lasting psychological harm in healthy individuals. Without proper information regarding the terms of their confinement or release, detainees tend to develop debilitating depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, severe anxiety, despair, and depression.

"President Obama had it right when he was a candidate running for office: This damaging policy must not be allowed to continue,” said Donaghue.

As reported in numerous accounts by media and human rights organizations, including PHR, many of the detainees held over the years at Guantanamo have been subjected to various forms of ill-treatment, including torture. Until the abuses which occurred at Guantanamo are fully investigated and those responsible are held accountable, the standing of the United States as a nation fully committed to human rights will remain in question.

"Especially for those that have already been tortured, indefinite detention is an inexcusable continuation of abuse,” said Donaghue.

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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