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New Website Focuses on Health Professionals’ Role in Torture

Laurel Fletcher
Laurel Fletcher

By Andrew Cohen

Health care professionals’ ethical obligation to do no harm is generating more attention amid reports on the role psychologists have played in designing and implementing interrogation practices of detainees taken into U.S. custody since 9/11. In response, a new website—a collaboration between the International Human Rights Law Clinic (IHRLC) and Center for Justice and Accountability—offers myriad resources to educate the public on this topic and promote a national discussion about how best to address it.

The site, available here, provides audio interviews with expert psychologists about “enhanced interrogation techniques,” outlines their history, impact, and implications, and offers topical background materials related to accountability for health professionals who may be complicit in torture.

Clinic students interviewed expert psychologists and researchers who are actively working to address psychologists’ participation in the controversial interrogations of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and U.S. prisons overseas. The site presents audio clips from these interviews that provide professional insights into the development, propriety, and effects of enhanced interrogation techniques. It also outlines proposals for reform.

“When we got involved in the role psychologists have played in the torture of detainees, we wanted to help the public understand the ethics issues involved,” says IHRLC executive director Laurel Fletcher. “With that in mind, we decided to create a portal of information that we hope will be a go-to source for the public and the first stop for interested journalists, academics, and advocates.”

Expert consultation on the project came from Eric Stover, faculty director of Berkeley Law’s Human Rights Center (HRC) and an adjunct professor of law and public health at UC Berkeley, and Harvey Weinstein, an HRC senior research fellow and clinical professor at the School of Public Health. The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation provided travel support for the project, and Fletcher also credits individual donors to the clinic for “playing a critical role in making this work possible.”

While an existing website, When Healers Harm, focuses on legal accountability, Fletcher says the clinic’s new site will “provide more contextual information and insights from the psychologists themselves to bridge this divide between law and health professionals.”