USA: Doctors concerned about continued use of indefinite detention

September 24, 2013


IFHHRO member Physicians for Human Rights (USA) recently submitted a shadow report to the Human Rights Committee (HRC) for its review of the United States’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Indefinite detention

The report finds that the United States has failed to uphold its obligations under the ICCPR by its continued use of indefinite detention. Indefinite detention is a form of individual detention used in the national security and immigration settings whereby detainees are not told when or if they will be released. The report focuses on the physical and psychological effects of indefinite detention, such as at Guantanamo Bay, and argues that those effects will not be resolved upon release:

“Evidence indicates that physical, social, and emotional issues associated with detention continue to plague individuals long after their release. In addition to harms suffered in custody, indefinite detention makes detainees vulnerable to new physical, social, and emotional harms once released. Indefinite detention causes enduring personality change, specifically radical changes in self-perception and drive, which may manifest through ongoing distress, disability, and social dysfunction that can be persistent or exacerbated by the passage of time. Indefinite detention also has emotional, social, and economic consequences for detainees, their children, their spouses, and their extended family, making it difficult for families to return to a state of wellness and stability even if they are reunited.”


PHR also states that the health effects caused by indefinite detention encourage detainees to participate in prolonged hunger strikes, and that force-feeding is an inhumane, unethical, and unlawful response to detainee hunger strikes.

The report offers recommendations to the United States in order to address these significant human rights concerns and encourages the HRC to include these recommendations in their US review.

Read the report (pdf)