Freedom from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment is a fundamental human right established in international law. Since its founding in 1986, PHR's core mission has included investigating and reporting on the devastating consequences of torture on individuals, institutions, and society.
Health professionals can detect signs of physical and mental abuse that are not evident to traditional investigators. Where the torturer aims to silence the victim, PHR's work validates the survivor's voice. Where the torturer hides evidence of brutality, PHR provides physical proof of the violation. And, where the torturer uses the physician as an accomplice, PHR exposes the ethical travesty.
Based on our work, PHR developed the first set of international guidelines for investigating and assessing allegations of torture and ill-treatment.
The Association for the Prevention of Torture compiles the OPCAT Database, which contains comprehensive information on all states parties and signatories to the UN torture prevention treaty - the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
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. PHR is also working on legislation in MA and NY to sanction health care providers who participate in acts of torture and ill treatment.
Despite the absolute prohibition of torture in international law, it continues to be practiced in more than 100 countries, from totalitarian regimes to democracies. Countries frequently justify the use of torture as a necessary means to extract confessions, identify terrorists, and obtain intelligence critical to preventing future violence. Convictions are difficult to achieve because torturers have become adept at inflicting suffering through methods that leave few physical marks. In 1999, PHR co-authored the first set of international guidelines (the Istanbul Protocol) for the medical documentation of torture and its consequences. Since then, PHR has trained health professionals around the world to increase the number of independent, qualified experts capable of providing forensic medical evidence of torture so that victims may obtain justice.
Every year, more than 40,000 people flee torture and unbearable persecution in their home country and seek safety in the US. PHR provides asylum seekers with medical and psychological evaluations to highlight the scars left by torture, beatings, sexual violence, slavery, and worse. PHR also protects survivors of torture and persecution by elevating the quality of health care in immigration detention centers, reducing the use of immigration detention, and eliminating arbitrary and unjustified barriers to asylum in the US.
PHR Calls on Honduran Government to Address Impunity for Ill-Treatment and Torture (February 12, 2014)
PHR issued a report today, finding that the Honduran authorities failed to ensure justice in cases involving torture and/or ill-treatment following the 2009 coup d’état, and called on the Honduran government to ensure that these cases are prosecuted and the judicial system is restored.
Physicians for Human Rights Criticizes Court Decision to Allow Force-Feeding (February 11, 2014)
A federal court today declined to stop force-feeding of Guantánamo detainees, allowing the inhuman and degrading practice to continue.
PHR Submits Statement on Syria’s Refugee Crisis to Senate Committee (January 7, 2014)
The United States should immediately convene a humanitarian summit with Russia and other nations in order to improve humanitarian aid in Syria; take steps to allow more Syrian refugees to resettle in the United States; and provide funding to address their health and other needs.
On Human Rights Day, PHR Highlights Priorities for the Administration (December 10, 2013)
On Human Rights Day, PHR highlighted the need for the U.S. government to address several pressing issues in order to protect fundamental freedoms and promote the United States’ position as a beacon for human rights.
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A Peaceful Syria Must Be Built on Foundation of Justice (January 21, 2014)
As members of the Syrian government, opposition forces, and international actors gather for Geneva II – the latest round of peace negotiations – it is crucial that all parties prioritize the end of systematic violations on medical care and targeted blockades of civilian communities.
Twelve Years Later: The Current State of Guantánamo (January 11, 2014)
January 11, 2014 marks the 12th anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention center. Such an anniversary is an appropriate time to reflect on the commitment President Barack Obama made to closing the detention facility and press for greater progress toward this ultimate goal.
Discovering Inspiration in Tragedy (November 18, 2013)
“I’m upset – feeling guilty for leaving colleagues working in extreme circumstances in Syria. But I will document the violations. That is my contribution.” - Syrian refugee doctor
Physicians for Human Rights Submits Shadow Report to the UN Human Rights Committee (September 18, 2013)
On October 17–18, 2013, the United States will be under review by the United Nations to examine U.S. compliance with its legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – a treaty the United States ratified in 1992.
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Impunity in Honduras (February 2014)
PHR sent a team of forensic experts to Honduras to investigate cases of alleged torture and ill-treatment by the country’s security forces that had occurred in the aftermath of the 2009 coup d’état.
Letter to President Obama on Releasing SSCI Report (January 2014)
On the 5th anniversary of President Barack Obama’s signing of the executive order to close the detention facility at Guantánamo and to standardize use of the Army Field Manual for interrogations, PHR and partner organizations sent a letter to the president.
Statement on the Syrian Refugee Crisis (January 2014)
PHR submitted a statement on the Syrian Refugee Crisis to a Hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights.
Letter to President Obama on Force-Feeding at Guantánamo (November 2013)
More than 35 prominent doctors and public health professionals sent this letter to President Obama and called on him to end force-feeding at Guantánamo and stop undermining medical care.
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