In a June 24 editorial, the New York Times called for the passage of a New York State law that would bar health professionals from licensure it they had participated in torture. Known as the Gottfried-Duane Bill to Stop Health Professional Participation in Torture, the legislation has 45 co-sponsors, and the vote on the legislation could happen as soon as today. (See here for PDF text of the bill.)
"Health professionals who facilitate torture are violating the most fundamental medical ethics and ought to be punished," the Times editorial states, noting that the refusal of Congress and the Obama administration to investigate or prosecute "on a national level" means that we must turn to what options we have to turn back U.S. torture. Earlier this month, the NY Times also wrote an editorial in support of investigations by the executive branch and Congress into charges of illegal human experimental research undertaken in support of Bush and Cheney’s torture program. The charges were made by Physicians for Human Rights in a report released on June 6, "Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program" (PDF).
The website, When Healers Harm, describes the background to the NY state anti-torture bills:
In April 2009, the Bush administration’s “torture memos” as well as reports by the Senate Armed Services Committee and the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that doctors and psychologists have been directly involved in the design, justification, supervision and execution of torture at U.S. military and intelligence facilities. This violates state, federal and international law and professional ethics.
Despite proof of wrongdoing, the health professionals involved in torture still hold their professional licenses to practice. To ensure accountability for torture and to prevent such atrocities from happening again, New York State Legislators have introduced Bills A. 6665-B in the Assembly and S. 4495-A in the Senate, new legislation that:
* Confirms that NY-licensed health professionals’ duty to do no harm applies to their professional relationships with all patients and under all employers;
* Reaffirms that health professionals licensed in New York are prohibited from involvement in torture or other abuse of prisoners, wherever that abuse takes place;
* Removes NY-licensed health professionals from interrogations; and
* Helps NY-licensed health professionals resist unlawful orders that could place them at risk of criminal prosecution and civil damages lawsuits.
The legislation has the backing of top medical professionals in New York State (see PDF list), the New York Civil Liberties Union, NY State Psychological and Nursing Associations, the NY Chapter of the American College of Physicians, Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Human Rights First and other professional, religious and human rights organizations. Sign a petition urging the New York Legislature to pass the N.Y. Anti-Torture Bill in 2010.
Meanwhile, as New York State awaits the vote on Gottfried-Duane, the ACLU announced this morning a "flash mob" event for Torture Awareness Month, to take place today. From a press release:
ACLU Plans Torture Awareness Event Friday In New York
On Eve Of International Day In Support Of Victims Of Torture, Group Calls For Accountability
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union announce a "flash mob" event today, June 25, at 12:00 p.m. EDT in Union Square in New York City to remind the public that the United States has yet to hold accountable government officials who knew about and authorized torture under the Bush administration. The event marks the signing of the Convention Against Torture and the eve of International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
Through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation, the ACLU has unearthed thousands of pages of documents that show that hundreds of prisoners were abused or tortured in CIA and Department of Defense custody, and that the torture policies were devised and developed at the highest levels of the Bush administration. Despite extensive documentation, however, the U.S. has yet to hold any high-level officials accountable for their roles in the torture program. Today’s event aims to visually depict the 150,000 pages of torture documents made public through the ACLU’s FOIA litigation and renew the call for meaningful accountability.
Many of the formerly-secret documents can be viewed online at www.thetorturereport.org, where the ACLU has been posting and writing about them throughout June in observance of Torture Awareness Month.
Torture Awareness Day public "flash mob" event to remind the public about the need to hold government officials accountable for the torture of detainees in U.S. custody
Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union national office and NYCLU will converge in a high-traffic area of Union Square to interact with members of the public.
Friday, June 25
12:00 p.m. EDT
Near 14th Street
New York, NY