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Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)


Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) published the Report Break them Down: Systematic use of Psychological Torture by U.S. Forces in 2005. In it PHR used information from interviews with anonymous sources familiar with detainee operations. The CSHRA has gone over this information and analyzed it as follows.

Physical Abuse

(PHR5) A source familiar with conditions at the naval base told PHR that US personnel at Guantánamo had devised a system to break people through humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, and use of forced positions. The source said that US personnel were using predominantly psychological but also physical means that were intentionally inflicted in order to gather intelligence. Daily life for detainees at Guantánamo in 2004 consisted of humiliation and violations of cultural and religious taboos, including forced shaving. Interrogation methods included exposure to loud and persistent noise and music, prolonged subjection to deliberate cold temperatures, forced positions while shackled, altered sleep patterns, and some beatings (Physicians for Human Rights 2005, 41).

Sexual Abuse

(PHR2) These accounts were confirmed to PHR by a source familiar with conditions there. According to the source, in 2003 female interrogators used sexually provocative acts as part of interrogation. For example, female interrogators sat on detainees’ laps and fondled themselves or detainees, opened their blouses and pushed their breasts in the faces of detainees, opened their skirts, kissed detainees and if rejected, accused them of liking men, and forced detainees to look at pornographic pictures or videos. Although the use of female interrogators appeared to decline in 2004, a source told PHR that humiliation and violation of cultural and religious taboos, including forced shaving, persisted (Physicians for Human Rights 2005, 6).

Medical Abuse

(PHR8) In a leaked report based on visits in June 2004, the ICRC said that medical files of detainees were “literally open” to interrogators. A source with knowledge of operations at Guantánamo confirmed to PHR that confidentiality was openly disregarded by many members of the US medical staff there, and that this was due to an order “from the top.” (Physicians for Human Rights 2005, 46).

(PHR9) A source knowledgeable with BSCT’s [= Behavior Science Consultation Team’s] functioning at Guantánamo told PHR that interrogators and heads of medical staff met with BSCT in order to discuss detainees’ medical conditions that may cause problems during interrogations (Physicians for Human Rights 2005, 47).

(PHR10) A source told PHR that detainees [at Guantánamo] refused to discuss their psychiatric problems with US physicians because they knew that the information was passed on to interrogators, who could then use it against them during interrogations (Physicians for Human Rights 2005, 47).

Legal Abuse


Psychological Abuse

(PHR1) In fact, a source with knowledge of detainee operations at Guantánamo told PHR that in mid-2004, up to a quarter of the over 500 detainees were kept in isolation and that a new isolation facility, Camp Five, opened in May 2004. This facility is modeled on US “supermaximum” prisons, which often subject prisoners to near total isolation for years on end, and apparently has over 100 isolation units, where lights are kept on for 24 hours a day (Physicians for Human Rights 2005, 4).

(PHR3) Sources with knowledge of interrogation at Guantánamo told PHR that some detainees there suffer from incoherent speech, disorientation, hallucination, irritability, anger, delusions, and sometimes paranoia (Physicians for Human Rights 2005, 9).

(PHR4) A source familiar with conditions at Guantánamo at that time [June 2004] told PHR that deprivation of sensory stimulation on the one hand and overstimulation on the other were causing spatial and temporal disorientation in detainees. The results were self-harm and suicide attempts (Physicians for Human Rights 2005, 10).

(PHR6) Sources tell PHR that the number of isolation units in Camp Echo has been expanded to more than 20. In May 2004, the US authorities opened Camp Five at Guantánamo, a maximum security unit composed of sealed boxes, made of steel, concrete, and aluminum. These were modeled on supermax prisons, with “overstimulation and monopolization of perception.” (Physicians for Human Rights 2005, 44).

(PHR7) Sources tell PHR that the lights are kept on in [Camp Five at Guantánamo] for 24 hours a day (Physicians for Human Rights 2005, 44).

(PHR11) A source with knowledge of interrogation at Guantánamo told PHR that isolation, repeated interrogation, deprivation of social contacts, an extremely harsh and overly stringent regime of internment, and constant sources of harassment, cultural or otherwise, were major causes of the deterioration of mental health of detainees at Guantánamo in 2002. These effects continued in 2003. According to the source, detainees held in Guantánamo in 2003 were under a constant state of stress and suffered from garbled conversation, disorientation, hallucination, irritability, anger, delusions, and sometimes paranoia. After observing detainees, the source opined that for some, the prolonged psychological and physical stress of coercive interrogation appeared to have induced dependence on interrogators or regression (Physicians for Human Rights 2005, 52).

See also PHR2, PHR5.

Age Abuse


Religious Abuse

See PHR5.

National/Ethnic Abuse

See PHR2, PHR5.

Verbal Abuse


Unspecified Abuse


Abuse en route to Guantánamo