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.
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.
U.S. Official Misses Opportunity to Address Human Rights Issues in Bahrain (December 9, 2013)
PHR today expressed concern that U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel failed to publicly prioritize human rights in Bahrain during a major event in the kingdom.
PHR Calls for Unfettered Access for Humanitarian Assistance in Syria (November 26, 2013)
PHR is calling on the U.S. government to immediately enter into high-level negotiations with the Russian government to ensure unfettered access in Syria for the International Committee of the Red Cross and other U.N. and humanitarian organizations that urgently need to provide vital services and supplies.
PHR Reiterates Call to Release Imprisoned Medics in Bahrain and Stop Shipment of Tear Gas (November 22, 2013)
PHR today reaffirmed its call to the Bahraini government to immediately release medical professionals who have been wrongfully prisoned and stop the ongoing targeting of the medical community.
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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.
Calculating the Immeasurable: Somali Torture Victim Wins $15 Million in Civil Damages (August 23, 2013)
This week an Ohio judge awarded $15 million to Abukar Hassan Ahmed, a Somali constitutional law professor and human rights advocate, following a civil trial in which a Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) volunteer doctor delivered testimony crucial to the case.
Force Feeding Violates Basic Medical Ethics and Our Core Values (August 9, 2013)
Force feeding is inconsistent with medical ethics, as it directly infringes on detainees' rights to make their own decisions about their health. Health professionals at Guantánamo have been subjecting detainees to the procedure against their wishes, using shackles and restraints for up to four hours a day while force feeding them.
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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.
Hunger Strikes and the Practice of Force-Feeding (October 2013)
This fact sheet gives an overview of the medical ethics of force-feeding, the U.S. government's response to hunger strikers, and PHR's recommendations to the Obama administration.
Shadow Report to the Human Rights Committee on the United States' Compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (September 2013)
PHR submitted a shadow report to the Human Rights Committee (HRC) for its review of the United States’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
PHR Anti-Torture Expert Stephen N. Xenakis Testifies at Senate Judiciary Committee on Closing Guantananmo (July 2013)
Dr. Stephen N. Xenakis testified at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Closing Guantanamo: The National Security, Fiscal, and Human Rights Implications, on July 24, 2013. Read his full testimony here.
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