NEW YORK – At its annual gala on April 11, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) honored medical professionals Dr. Scott A. Allen and Dr. Pamela K. McPherson and Survivors of Sexual Violence in Kenya Network for their bravery and commitment to advancing human rights.
After being asked by the Department of Homeland Security to inspect detention facilities at the U.S southern border, Dr. Allen, a longtime expert medical advisor for PHR, and psychiatrist Dr. McPherson blew the whistle on the U.S. government. In a July 17, 2018 letter to the Senate Whistleblowing Caucus, they exposed disgraceful conditions in U.S. immigration detention centers that threaten the health and safety of children and families affected by family separation and detention policies.
In accepting the honor, Dr. Allen said, “Physicians have an obligation to notify authorities of imminent threats of harm to children. When our warning to Homeland Security went unheeded, the ethics were clear: we were duty bound to notify Congress. From the beginning, Physicians for Human Rights and the medical profession had our backs. But the harm to children and their families continues unabated. Together, we must press on to protect the health, safety, and the dignity of children.”
Previously, Dr. Allen’s work helped expose medical complicity in the U.S. torture program, and he coauthored several reports on the harms of the U.S. interrogation program.
Dr. McPherson has dedicated her research to the mental health of justice-involved youth as well as conditions of juvenile confinement and consults for the U.S. government and nonprofits on mental health services for justice-involved youth. “No one needs a medical degree to know that the separation of families and the detention of toddlers are wrong…. It’s clear that traumatizing children is not a political issue but one of human dignity.”
PHR also honored Survivors of Sexual Violence in Kenya Network, whose movement builds survivors’ capacity for self-agency and offers them a unified voice with which to address sexual violence, restore their dignity, and amplify their message across Kenya. The organization emerged in the aftermath of post-election violence in Kenya in 2007. The award was accepted by Grace Agenda founder Jaqueline Mutere, who mobilizes survivors to advocate for redress and reparations, participate in police vetting processes, and access medical, counseling, and educational services for themselves and their children.
As she introduced Mutere, presenter and award-winning actress Julianna Margulies said, “PHR isn’t just about the doctors and nurses. It’s about the constellation of lawyers and advocates and survivors who together are key players in the pursuit of justice.”
In inspiring remarks, Mutere, who survived a rape from which she became pregnant and bore a daughter, shared the mission of her organization’s partnership with PHR: “PHR built the capacity of our network. Together, our mandate is simple: it is to ensure that anyone who seeks help at a police station, a hospital, or a community center will be treated with dignity and respect.”
PHR Executive Director Donna McKay saluted the honorees as “people who used their voices, who courageously spoke truth to power because what they saw, and what they experienced, was an outrage to the conscience of humanity.”
The gala raised a record-breaking $1.1 million, including through pledges submitted live during the event.
Remarks from the evening can be found in the following videos:
• Honorees Dr. Scott A. Allen and Dr. Pamela K. McPherson
• Honoree Jaqueline Mutere, representative of Survivors of Sexual Violence in Kenya Network
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.