ResourcesPress Release

PHR Statement on Torture Lawsuit Settlement

For Immediate Release

Today the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced a settlement in its historic lawsuit against the two psychologists who designed and implemented the post-9/11 CIA torture program. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has long investigated the role of health professionals in designing, implementing, and legitimizing U.S. torture, in violation of the law and medical ethics.

The following statement is attributable to Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director:

“Today’s news is a bittersweet triumph for the rule of law and sends a clear message that health professionals who participate in the crimes of torture and human experimentation will be held to account. This settlement is a landmark recognition of the suffering endured by detainees brutalized by the U.S. government and will help at least some of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen’s many victims begin to heal. These two psychologists had a fundamental ethical obligation to do no harm, which they perverted to inflict severe pain and suffering on human beings in captivity.

“We at PHR have long documented the role U.S. health professionals played at every stage of the U.S. torture program. This case yielded thousands of pages of new disclosures that have continued lifting the veil of secrecy surrounding this illegal and unethical program, adding to the historical record of this dark chapter of American history. Those revelations confirmed that health professionals applied their knowledge and skills as healers to enable torture and inflict profound physical and psychological harm on detainees. And in the case of Mitchell and Jessen, they profited from these activities to the tune of $81 million dollars. We are heartened that the justice system prevailed in allowing this case to proceed, setting an important precedent for future lawsuits by other survivors of torture.

“Today’s victory shows the critical importance of continuing to fight against impunity for torture. Health professionals everywhere now know that if you engage in torture, you cannot hide under the shroud of national security. Moving forward, the public must know the full truth of the torture program and the role of health professionals to ensure such unlawful, immoral, and profoundly damaging national security policies are never again permitted. Today’s settlement reinvigorates our quest for accountability and justice, and we will not end our efforts to ensure that health professionals around the world live up to their ethical, moral, and legal obligations.”

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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