The Psychological Torture of Families: The Forgotten Victims of Extraordinary Rendition and Family Separation

Submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Global Justice Clinic (GJC) at New York University School of Law* submitted a report in response to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture’s open consultation on psychological torture and ill-treatment. The submission focuses on families as direct victims of psychological torture under the extraordinary rendition program of the George W. Bush administration and the policies of family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border of the Donald J. Trump administration.

The first part of this report demonstrates that family members of individuals subjected to the U.S. extraordinary rendition program may be victims of psychological torture. This submission focuses on the experiences of two of GJC’s clients, Zahra Ahmed Mohamed, the late spouse of Mohammed al-Asad, as well as the late spouse of Mohamed Bashmilah, who prefers to remain unnamed in this report. Both women were married to men kidnapped, tortured, and detained under the U.S. extraordinary rendition program. They both endured severe pain and suffering as a result of witnessing their husbands’ abductions and from the mental anguish of not knowing their spouses’ whereabouts, or even if they were alive during the duration of their secret detention. The states involved in their husbands’ renditions and detention intentionally punished these women by actively withholding information, obfuscating in response to inquiries, and/or lying about what happened. Given these considerations, these two women, and other similarly situated relatives of those subjected to the U.S. extraordinary rendition program are victims of psychological torture.

The second part of the report focuses on the Trump administration’s policies of family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border. Many of the thousands of separated families have endured severe pain or suffering as a result of the separation policies. The U.S. government has made plain that the purposes behind the separations are to deter additional migrants from arriving to the United States and to coerce asylum seekers already in the U.S. to give up their asylum claims. These impermissible purposes are colored by discriminatory animus against Latin American migrants, expressed at the highest levels of the U.S. government. This submission demonstrates that these intentional and deliberate actions by the U.S. government constitute psychological torture.

As victims of torture, the families discussed in this report are entitled to reparations under international law. This submission recommends that the Special Rapporteur on Torture make this clear by inviting relevant states to begin the process of acknowledgment, apology, and repair.

*This report does not purport to represent the institutional views, if any, of New York University.





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