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Posted by Solly Mack in General Discussion
Fri Mar 11th 2011, 04:49 PM



The United States holds tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement. Is this torture?

by Atul Gawande

"A U.S. military study of almost a hundred and fifty naval aviators returned from imprisonment in Vietnam, many of whom were treated even worse than McCain, reported that they found social isolation to be as torturous and agonizing as any physical abuse they suffered.

And what happened to them was physical. EEG studies going back to the nineteen-sixties have shown diffuse slowing of brain waves in prisoners after a week or more of solitary confinement. In 1992, fifty-seven prisoners of war, released after an average of six months in detention camps in the former Yugoslavia, were examined using EEG-like tests. The recordings revealed brain abnormalities months afterward; the most severe were found in prisoners who had endured either head trauma sufficient to render them unconscious or, yes, solitary confinement. Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury."


International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims.

Long-term solitary confinement: a method of torture

Medical evidence has shown that long-term solitary confinement is a form of torture. Dr Joost J den Otter, Medical Director at the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), adds that while there is no doubt about the damage caused by long periods of isolation, solitary confinement for a short period may also cause psychological harm.

A recent commentary published by the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law about solitary confinement and mental illness in U.S. Prisons, the authors, Jeffrey L. Metzner and Jamie Fellner, support Dr den Otter’s judgment.

“Isolation can be psychologically harmful to any prisoner, with the nature and severity of the impact depending on the individual, the duration of confinement, and particular conditions (e.g., access to natural light, books, or radio). Psychological effects can include anxiety, depression, anger, cognitive disturbances, perceptual distortions, obsessive thoughts, paranoia, and psychosis”.

In August 2010, Physicians for Human Rights published a report (Experiments in Torture) which added to the growing body of evidence that solitary confinement causes psychological harm consistent with torture. In an interview with ‘Life’s Little Mysteries’, Dr Scott Allen, one of the authors of the paper, said that solitary confinement “can lead to anxiety, depression, certainly disorientation, it can even lead to thought disorders including psychotic thoughts.” He added "The consequences can be significant."


Red Cross:Guantanamo Tactics 'Tantamount to Torture'

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has accused the U.S. military of using tactics "tantamount to torture" on prisoners at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The Times said the Red Cross investigators had found a system devised to break the will of prisoners through "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions."

"The construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture," the Times quoted the report as saying.



Current Conditions at Guantanamo Bay

Solitary Confinement

The majority of men held in Guantanamo Bay are held in maximum security facilities, Camp 5 and Camp 6 as well as Camp Echo. The small cells are made from steel and concrete. Food is delivered through a metal slot in the door. If the men yell loud enough, they can speak with each other, but to do so risks punishment. Weeks can go by without the men seeing sunlight. The everyday reality for these men is sensory deprivation, environmental manipulation and sleep deprivation, not to mention the daily psychological and physical torment. Toothbrushes, blankets, soap and deodorant are considered privileges, so can be taken away as a form of punishment. ‘Recreation’ for ‘compliant detainees’ consists of two to four hours outside the cell, sometimes in the middle of the night so the men do not see sunlight or have any contact with any living thing. In Camp 6, ‘recreation’ time is spent in a pen surrounded by two storey high concrete walls with wire across the top.

“I am in my tomb.”

Abdelli Feghoul, camp 6 who was cleared for release in 2006

The psychological effects of solitary confinement can include hallucinations, extreme anxiety, hostility, confusion and concentration problems. The physical effects include muscular atrophy, weight loss and impaired eyesight.


Open Letter: The Solitary Confinement of PFC Bradley Manning

As an organization of psychologists and other mental health professionals, PsySR is aware that solitary confinement can have severely deleterious effects on the psychological well-being of those subjected to it.

As expressed by Dr. Craig Haney, a psychologist and expert in the assessment of institutional environments, "Empirical research on solitary and supermax-like confinement has consistently and unequivocally documented the harmful consequences of living in these kinds of environments . . . Evidence of these negative psychological effects comes from personal accounts, descriptive studies, and systematic research on solitary and supermax-type confinement, conducted over a period of four decades, by researchers from several different continents who had diverse backgrounds and a wide range of professional expertise... irect studies of prison isolation have documented an extremely broad range of harmful psychological reactions. These effects include increases in the following potentially damaging symptoms and problematic behaviors: negative attitudes and affect, insomnia, anxiety, panic, withdrawal, hypersensitivity, ruminations, cognitive dysfunction, hallucinations, loss of control, irritability, aggression, and rage, paranoia, hopelessness, lethargy, depression, a sense of impending emotional breakdown, self-mutilation, * and suicidal ideation and behavior" (pp. 130-131, references removed).

Dr. Haney concludes, "To summarize, there is not a single published study of solitary or supermax-like confinement in which non-voluntary confinement lasting for longer than 10 days where participants were unable to terminate their isolation at will that failed to result in negative psychological effects" (p. 132).

( * So is the United States government setting up the circumstances to induce "suicidal ideation" and then claiming Manning is being subjected (stripped naked) to degrading and humiliating treatment for his own protection?)

CIA's Combined Use of Interrogation Techniques

20th hijacker was tortured, judge says

The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay prisoners to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi citizen who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a life-threatening condition.

"We tortured (Mohammed al-) Qahtani," said Susan Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

U.N. to investigate treatment of Bradley Manning



Prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment; torture and other degrading and humiliating treatment.

Common Article 3

Convention Against Torture

8th Amendment

Article 55, UCMJ

U.S. State Department: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices list "lengthy pretrial and sometimes incommunicado detention" as a human rights abuse. (It also list "Security services detained individuals without formal charges and held them indefinitely without court convictions.)

The Reports also list, under "Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment" -

"Reported techniques included beatings with fists, sticks, and rifle butts; kicking; scalding with hot water; excessively tight handcuffs; prolonged blindfolding and suspension by the wrists or ankles; denial of water or access to toilets; burning with cigarettes; stripping naked; denial of food and prompt access to medical help; threats of sexual abuse; and death threats. Sleep deprivation and solitary confinement were other forms of abuse reported in PSO prisons."

The report for 2010 is due out any minute now.

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