August 6, 2009, Ottawa and New York – Human rights organizations are calling on the Canadian government to investigate retired U.S. Army colonel and psychologist Dr. Larry C. James, a former high-ranking advisor on interrogations for the U.S. military in Guantanamo Bay. According to his own statements, Dr. James played an influential role in both the policy and day-to-day operations of interrogations and detention at the base. Publicly-available information suggests that while Dr. James was at Guantanamo in the spring of 2003, abuse in interrogations was widespread and cruel treatment was official policy.
Responding to reports that he would travel to Toronto this week, the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sent a joint letter yesterday to Canada’s Minister of Public Safety requesting an investigation into whether Dr. James had a role in war crimes or torture at Guantanamo Bay in 2003. Dr. James, who currently serves as the President of the American Psychological Association’s Division 19 for Military Psychology is expected to attend the APA’s Convention beginning today in Toronto.
Also today, a motion for appeal was filed in Louisiana, in the case Dr. Trudy Bond v. Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP). In compliance with her ethical obligation to report abuse by other psychologists, Dr. Bond, a Toledo-based psychologist, filed a complaint against Dr. James before the LSBEP, the agency that issued and now regulates his psychology license. Dr. Bond alleged that Dr. James breached professional ethics by violating psychologists’ duties to obtain informed consent, to protect confidential information and to do no harm. As Chief Psychologist of the Joint Intelligence Group and a senior member of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) at Guantanamo, Dr. James had access to the confidential medical records of people he was charged with exploiting for intelligence. Reports issued after his departure alleged that BSCTs used information from patients’ records to help identify physical and mental vulnerabilities of detainees for the purposes of interrogation. Dr. James denies that claim.
Following the LSBEP’s summary dismissal of the complaint without investigation, Dr. Bond filed suit against the LSBEP in Louisiana’s 19th Judicial District Court, which dismissed her case last month. Today’s motion signals Dr. Bond’s intention to continue her pursuit of accountability at the state appellate level.
Allegations of abuse during Dr. James’ January to May 2003 deployment include beatings, religious and sexual humiliation, rape threats and painful body positions. Canadian citizen Omar Khadr is one of the prisoners who has alleged brutal treatment in the spring of 2003 when he was only 16 years old.
Based on this information, the CCIJ and CCR called on the Canadian government to investigate whether action should be taken against Dr. James or other attendees of the APA Convention who may have been involved in abuse of detainees.
The organizations have appealed to Canadian officials because the United States government, despite the change in administration, has failed to take proper steps to investigate people in positions of military, intelligence and political leadership who may have been involved in crimes related to the torture and abuse of detainees.
Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act gives the federal government power to prosecute war crimes regardless of where they were committed if the alleged perpetrator is later present in Canada. A similar provision of the Criminal Code applies to crimes of torture.
Said CCIJ Legal Coordinator Matt Eisenbrandt, "Any time there is credible information that someone on Canadian soil may have been involved in torture or war crimes, the Canadian government should investigate. The fact that a Canadian citizen says he was abused during the time Dr. James was at Guantanamo only makes the case stronger for the government to conduct a full inquiry into the evidence."
Said CCR Fellow Deborah Popowski, “"The Louisiana Board should investigate Larry James to find out whether he hurt people using the license it issued him to heal. No one can afford to ignore evidence that a psychologist may have been complicit in torture. When politics trump the rule of law, everyone suffers: survivors of torture, the health profession, and all patients.”
James was also stationed in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 and returned to Guantanamo in 2007.
For more information on the involvement of health professionals in torture and abuse visit the Center for Constitutional Rights website www.whenhealersharm.org.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.
The Canadian Centre for International Justice/Centre Canadian pour la justice internationale (www.ccij.ca) is a charitable organization that works with survivors of genocide, torture and other atrocities to seek redress and bring perpetrators to justice.