Friday, August 15, 2008

Mil Psychologist Invokes Right Not to Incriminate Herself

Too bad torture victims can't do likewise

Physicians for Human Rights report that on Thursday Lt. Col. Diane Zirhoffer invoked Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military’s equivalent of the Fifth Amendment, when called by the defense attorneys to testify in the case of Mohammad Jawad at Guantanamo Bay. 17 years old at the time of his detention, Jawad --now 24--was placed in isolation, reportedly on the advise of this military psychologist, after she decided that he was "faking" when he was observed to be talking to the posters on his cell wall. Nine weeks after he was removed from a month in isolation, he tried repeatedly to kill himself, by banging his head and hanging himself.

The teenager had earlier been held at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where he reportedly was forced to stand for long periods of time in stress positions; deprived of sleep; beaten; shackled; and, once, pushed down a flight of stairs. His claims of abuse are consistent with those of other Bagram prisoners, according to CID Investigator Special Agent Angela Birt, whose investigations of two Bagram murders has, according to the ACLU: "resulted in confessions from 18 military police for their role in abusing prisoners and findings of probable cause to charge 27 officers for the homicides."

PHR has called upon the APA to:
acknowledge the deep, structural involvement of psychologists in systems of detainee mistreatment that amount to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. We ask the APA further to join us in demanding that Congress and the White House form an independent and transparent commission to investigate the role of military and intelligence psychologists in torture and other abuses of detainees in US custody.

Right now the American Psychological Association is meeting in Boston; Psychologists for an Ethical APA is holding a rally in Boston 8/16 from noon to 2 pm at the Hynes Convention Center, 415 Summer Street. PHR will also be speaking, along with leaders in the movement to end psychologists' involvement in abusive interrogations and illegal detentions.

APA members are presently voting on a referendum to forbid psychologists to work in settings that fail to meet basic standards of international law, unless they are working directly for detained persons or for an independent third party working to protect human rights. This issue is being hotly debated. A cynic might note that a former APA president served on the board of a consulting firm that helped develop the interrogation techniques now being called into question. Fortunately over a thousand psychologists are standing up for human rights and working hard to restore the profession's reputation. One of them, Steven Reisner, Ph.D., is running for president of the APA. He has my vote.

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