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Advocacy groups petition for investigation of Guantanamo psychologist

The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) [advocacy website] and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) [advocacy website] petitioned a court on Wednesday to investigate a Guantanamo Bay psychologist who allegedly engaged in activities amounting to professional misconduct. The CJA is seeking disciplinary action [CJA backgrounder] against New York licensed psychologist Dr. John Leso, including revocation of his license to practice psychology, based on techniques he developed while leading a behavioral science consultation team at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] in 2002 and 2003. In July, the CJA filed a licensing complaint [text, PDF] with the New York Office of the Professions (NYOP) [official website] against Leso requesting an immediate investigation of his conduct, as well as acts committed by interrogators following his recommendations and under his supervision at Guantanamo Bay. The NYOP denied jurisdiction [ruling, PDF] over the complaint on the grounds that Leso's conduct was not consistent with the practice of psychology as defined under New York law, and therefore was not governed by New York rules of professional ethics.

This complaint is the most recent in the history of condemnations of Guantanamo Bay medical professionals. In April 2009, the International Committee of the Red Cross [official website] reported that medical professionals violated codes of medical ethics [JURIST report] by participating in and assisting in ill-treatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees. A 2008 report [text, PDF; executive summary, PDF] by the Physicians For Human Rights [official website] revealed that abuse and torture claims made by former detainees held by the US in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq are supported by medical examinations [JURIST report] performed by the group. Doctors from 16 countries wrote a letter [JURIST report] in September 2007 condemning the US military for its treatment of detainees, particularly the policy of force-feeding to counteract hunger strikes. A month earlier, a commentary [text] published in the Journal of the American Medical Association [journal website] asserted that force-feeding was a violation of medical ethics [JURIST report].

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