DAVIS -- A new book by the UC Davis Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas challenges the idea that psychological torture is undetectable, harmless and unimportant.
"The Trauma of Psychological Torture," published this month, includes a compilation of papers presented at a September 2006 conference sponsored by the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain. The conference drew psychologists, psychiatrists, neurobiologists, lawyers, historians and a semanticist from nine institutions in the U.S. and Germany.
The 240-page book opens with a brief history of sanctioned psychological experiments and torture methods. Five chapters focus on the neurobiological and psychosocial consequences of imprisonment, solitary confinement and psychological terror techniques, sometimes referred to as "no-touch" torture. It ends with case studies of two of the most notorious prisoners in the war on terror, Mohammed al-Qahtani, the alleged 20th hijacker in the 9/11 attacks, and Salim Hamdan, alleged to be Osama bin Laden's driver. Almerindo Ojeda, a linguistics professor at UC Davis and director of the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas, wrote the introduction and edited the book.
"Psychological torture is an insidious practice of studied cruelty that renounces physical violence in the hopes of appearing professional and benign," Ojeda said.
The book is part of the center's larger project, called the Neurobiology of Psychological Torture, which examines how the use of psychological torture damages the central nervous system of its victims.
The center is also collecting and archiving accounts of torture of Guantanamo Bay prisoners found in news media reports, e-mails, diaries and other sources worldwide. Under the center's auspices, a Swedish detainee's journal was recently translated into English and posted on the Web. Transcend Translations, based in Davis, donated translation services.
"The project raises public awareness about human rights using an academic perspective," Ojeda said. "It also provides a sense of agency for a community that feels hopeless."
For more information, visit http://humanrights.ucdavis.edu.
Almerindo Ojeda, Linguistics, (530) 752-5997, firstname.lastname@example.org