The New York Times reports on a study that interviewed people who had been either physically or psychologically tortured during the conflict in Yugoslavia and found both groups were equally likely to develop post traumatic stress disorder, otherwise known as PTSD.
This is powerful research, not least because the United Nations Convention Against Torture uses the potential for ‘prolonged mental harm’ as a way of distinguishing between physical torture and other coercive interrogation techniques that may be frowned upon but are not considered against international law.
The conclusions appear to contradict a Justice Department memorandum of Dec. 30, 2004. Citing the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the memorandum argued that a broad range of interrogation techniques, among them forced standing, hooding, subjection to loud noises and deprivation of sleep, food and drink, might be inhumane but did not constitute torture unless they resulted in “prolonged mental harm.”
“Until now, both sides of the debate have expressed opinions based on personal impressions,” said Dr. Metin Basoglu, the lead author of the study. “But these data clearly suggest that you cannot make a distinction between physical forms of torture and something else called ‘cruel and degrading treatment.’ “
This is likely to inflame the ongoing debate about the American Psychological Association allowing its members to take part in US Military interrogations while US medical associations have banned physicians and psychiatrists from participating in the same.