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.
Pentagon’s Health Experts Endorse Recusal on Medical Ethics Grounds (March 20, 2015)
PHR today welcomed a recommendation by the Pentagon’s independent health advisors that medical personnel be excused from duties that violate professional ethics.
U.S. Military Document Says Force-Feeding Violates Medical Ethics and International Law (January 30, 2015)
PHR says that a newly public U.S. military document acknowledging that force-feeding violates medical ethics shows unlawfulness of hunger strike practices at Guantánamo.
Physicians for Human Rights Releases Expert Analysis of CIA Torture Report, Calls for Federal Commission to Hold Health Professionals Accountable (December 16, 2014)
Health professionals played an essential role at every stage of the CIA’s torture program, committing at least eight violations of ethics and law, PHR said today in an analysis of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report summary on CIA torture.
CIA Torture Report Highlights Unnecessary Medical Procedure (December 10, 2014)
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said today that the use of rectal hydration and rectal feeding on detainees without evidence of medical necessity – which was revealed in yesterday’s U.S. Senate report – constitutes torture.
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Closing Guantánamo Is Imperative, But Not Enough (January 23, 2015)
During President Obama’s State of the Union address, he reaffirmed his commitment to closing the notorious prison at Guantánamo: Since I’ve been president, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of Gitmo in half. Now it is time to finish the job, and I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It is not who we are. It’s time to close Gitmo.
Psychologists Must Stand by their Ethical Obligations (August 11, 2014)
American psychologists designed and oversaw the brutal regime of interrogation used on detainees in U.S. military custody at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, and elsewhere during the U.S. war on terror; but the profession has yet to punish any psychologist who participated in torture or to fully distance itself from this legacy.
Honoring Victims of Torture Means Repairing Trust in Healers (June 26, 2014)
Today, UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, marks 27 years since the UN Convention against Torture came into effect.
Today’s Global Day of Action to Close Guantánamo marks another 365 days of detention that have passed since President Barack Obama renewed his promise to close the notorious prison.
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Open Letter to the Government of Bahrain (March 2015)
Physicians for Human Rights, partner organizations, and human rights activists call on the government on Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience in the country in the aftermath of the 2011 popular uprising.
The Crisis in Syria Turns Four (March 2015)
Ahead of the four-year anniversary of the crisis in Syria, Physicians for Human Rights and partner organizations call on permanent members of the UN Security Council to refrain from using their veto power when confronted with a crisis in which civilians are at impending risk of atrocity crimes.
The new chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Richard Burr, requested that the executive branch return all copies of the CIA torture report to the committee. PHR and partner organizations sent this letter to President Obama urging him to reject Senator Burr’s request.
This analysis by PHR of the SSCI report’s executive summary builds on years of investigation and research documenting the systematic use of torture by the United States.
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