Complaint filed against US psychologist for torture
Psychologist implicated in torture at Guantanamo at same time as Omar Khadr's detention
For immediate release 7 July 2010
- A complaint was filed in New York today, calling for an investigation of a US psychologist implicated in the torture of Guantanamo Bay detainees at the same time as Omar Khadr’s detention, according to the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ).
Dr. John Francis Leso, a major in the U.S. Army, led a team of mental health professionals that assisted in the interrogation of prisoners at the detention camp from approximately June 2002 to January 2003. Omar Khadr has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since October 2002.
The complaint, filed with the New York State Office of Professions, alleges that Dr. Leso violated professional standards of conduct when he recommended the escalation of physically and psychologically abusive interrogation tactics at Guantanamo, and participated in their use.
The call for an investigation and the revocation of his psychologist’s license was filed by the US Center for Justice and Accountability on behalf of New York psychologist and professor Dr. Steven Reisner. “The public has a right to expect that doctors who torture will be sanctioned no less than those who commit fraud or who have sex with their patients,” said Dr. Reisner, who has received awards for his work against torture.
This is not the first call for accountability for the involvement of mental health professionals in torture at Guantanamo. Last year, the US psychologist who was Dr. Leso’s successor at Guantanamo traveled to Toronto to attend a conference, and CCIJ called on the Government of Canada to investigate his role in torture and war crimes as well. There was no official response and the psychologist, Dr. Larry James, attended the conference without incident.
The Government of Canada is now also being called on to do more to protect the rights of Omar Khadr. A Supreme Court of Canada ruling in January found that Khadr’s detention and interrogation in Guantanamo violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On Monday the Federal Court ruled that the Canadian government must come up with a way to remedy this within a week.
“All of these efforts to protect the rights of detainees and to seek accountability for their torture are part of a growing global movement,” said Jayne Stoyles, Executive Director of CCIJ.
“We have cases for human rights abuses taking place in The Hague and in national courts around the world for situations like Rwanda and Darfur,” she explained. “If Western governments and health professionals are also involved in torture and war crimes in the context of the so-called ‘War on Terror’, they must equally be held accountable if there is hope of eradicating torture.”
The Canadian Centre for International Justice works with survivors of genocide, torture and other atrocities to seek redress and bring perpetrators to justice.