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PHR Condemns Bush's Veto of Torture Prohibition; Calls for Congress to Vote to Override

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) strongly condemns President Bush's veto of the Intelligence Authorization Bill, which extends the Army Field Manual's standards for detainee treatment and interrogation to the CIA. PHR urges Congress to override the president's veto. If unable to do so, the House and the Senate should immediately pursue other legislative vehicles for ending the use of these torture tactics by all US agencies.

"Congress must ensure that the Bush Administration's illegal program of physical and psychological torture is not allowed to continue," stated Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer of PHR. "It is a national disgrace that President Bush is using the veto power given to him by the Constitution to allow the use of interrogation tactics which violate federal law and international human rights standards. Congress must continue to repel this assault on America's core values during this administration and beyond."

The measure the President vetoed prohibits the use of so-called "enhanced" tactics by the CIA, which were derived from interrogations conducted by the KGB, North Korea, and North Vietnam during the Cold War, which often elicited false confessions. These techniques reportedly include waterboarding, sensory deprivation, isolation, mock execution, stress positions, sexual and cultural humiliation, sleep deprivation and other illegal procedures.

"The president complained in today's radio address that the Army Field Manual prohibits more tactics than waterboarding alone," stated Donaghue. "These 'additional' tactics, President Bush failed to mention, can constitute war crimes and have no place in militaries or intelligence services governed by the rule of law. America must not be scared into thinking that these 'additional' tactics are anything other than what they are—torture."

A recent medical and legal analysis of the CIA's interrogation techniques by PHR and Human Rights First, entitled Leave No Marks: "Enhanced" Techniques and the Risk of Criminality, concludes that these harsh interrogation methods can constitute torture under US law. Health professionals who work with survivors of torture have shown the devastating, long-term mental and physical consequences that these techniques cause.

"Torture inflicts profound and lasting mental and physical damage on everyone it touches, both the torture survivor and the torturer," stated Donaghue. "Health professionals have documented the inevitable outcome of any situation where the crime of torture is committed—bodies, minds, and lives are left broken."

PHR also reiterates its call for Congress to hold public hearings that fully investigate the use of torture by US personnel. More than six years since these tactics was allegedly first approved, the entire story of America's descent into the use of torture has still not been entirely told.

"Though Congress voted to prohibit these abhorrent and criminal interrogation methods, both the House and Senate must fulfill their oversight responsibilities through the use of subpoena power, if necessary," stated Donaghue. "The American people deserve to be told the whole truth about how the Bush Administration tortured detainees in US custody. There must be full accountability for human rights abuses committed at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, the CIA's secret prisons, and elsewhere."

Since the publication of its groundbreaking report in 2005 documenting the use of torture against detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Break Them Down: Systematic Use of Psychological Torture by US Forces, PHR has been a leading voice in the effort to end the use of abusive interrogation techniques during interrogations of detainees held by the US military and intelligence services. This spring, PHR will publish Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of the Use of Torture by US Forces, a landmark report based on medical and psychological evaluations of detainees held at US detention facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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.

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