For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Megan Prock
Senior Press Officer
mprock [at] phrusa [dot] org
Tel: (617) 301-4237

Obama’s Guantanamo Policy Condemned by PHR

Indefinite detention can cause psychological harm and should not be formal US policy

CAMBRIDGE, MA - PHR condemns President Barack Obama’s recent announcement that military trials would resume for detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The decision formalizes the use of indefinite detention and marks a stark reversal from the President’s initial promise to close the controversial prison.

Upon entering office, the President called for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. However, soon after, Obama began to advocate for a new law of “preventive detention,” which allows the United States to imprison people indefinitely and without charges.

“To formalize this appalling policy of holding people forever without ever telling them why goes against American values of justice,” said Frank Donaghue, CEO of Physicians for Human Rights. “We are not only denying these detainees due process, but engaging in policies that can cause serious psychological harm.”

Research increasingly indicates that indefinite detention causes lasting psychological harm in healthy individuals. Without proper information regarding the terms of their confinement or release, detainees tend to develop debilitating depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, severe anxiety, despair, and depression.


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“President Obama had it right when he was a candidate running for office: This damaging policy must not be allowed to continue,” said Donaghue.

As reported in numerous accounts by media and human rights organizations, including PHR, many of the detainees held over the years at Guantanamo have been subjected to various forms of ill-treatment, including torture. Until the abuses which occurred at Guantanamo are fully investigated and those responsible are held accountable, the standing of the United States as a nation fully committed to human rights will remain in question.

“Especially for those that have already been tortured, indefinite detention is an inexcusable continuation of abuse,” said Donaghue.


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PHR was founded in 1986 on the idea that health professionals, with their specialized skills, ethical duties, and credible voices, are uniquely positioned to investigate the health consequences of human rights violations and work to stop them. PHR mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity, and justice and promotes the right to health for all.

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