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July 28, 2011

Ohioans Continue to Fight for Torture Accountability Close to Home

Posted by Deborah Popowski

If you remember, in April we asked an Ohio court to order that state’s psychology board to revisit the case against Dr. Larry James, the current dean of Wright State University’s professional psychology school in Dayton.  Before taking the helm at Wright State, Dr. James was a U.S. Army colonel and senior interrogation psychologist in Guantánamo.  During his tenure, government authorities reported that boys and men at the prison were threatened with rape and death; forced to strip naked; short-shackled into stress positions for hours; and physically assaulted.

Drawing largely on Dr. James’s own statements, government reports, and the testimony of survivors and witnesses, the International Human Rights Clinic filed a professional misconduct complaint against Dr. James with the Ohio State Psychology Board, on behalf of four Ohioans: Dr. Trudy Bond, Dr. Josie Setzler, Rev. Colin Bossen, and Michael Reese.  The ethics complaint included allegations that he had advised on interrogations that included torture.

This past January, after seven months of refusing all offers to provide additional information or address possible evidentiary or legal concerns, the Board dismissed the 50-page complaint with nary a reason given.

In April, the Clinic and Toledo attorney Terry Lodge filed a mandamus petition with the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.  We specifically asked that the court compel the Board to conduct a meaningful investigation of the allegations in the complaint, and hold a hearing on the evidence.  At a minimum, we asked that the court demand from the Board a good faith explanation for the dismissal of the complaint.

In May, the Board moved to dismiss our mandamus petition, arguing that Dr. Bond, Dr. Setzler, Rev. Bossen and Mr. Reese had not suffered enough harm to bring this matter before the court.  They also argued that the Board has no legal obligation to take any action in response to the allegations against Dr. James, or even to give a reason for its dismissal.

Last Friday, we filed our opposition to that motion.  In our brief, we explained the many ways in which the original complainants—a psychologist, a veteran, a minister and a mental health advocate, all working in Ohio—had in fact been injured by the Board’s failure to treat their serious complaint seriously.  We also laid out how and why the Board did have a legal duty to respond.  To our delight, Dr. Bond promptly wrote back with a selection of her favorite passages from the brief.  For those of us who became human rights lawyers out of commitment to the issues (rather than an unconditional love of writing legal briefs), it is moments like these that make us love our job.  Thanks, Trudy!

Below is one of the paragraphs she found most important, along with one of ours:

“This case is ultimately about: whether the Board, an agency tasked with protecting the public from the unsafe practice of psychology can essentially ignore documented, credible allegations that one of its psychologists used his professional skills to torture and exploit people; whether it can refuse to bring charges against that psychologist, even when he has written a book in which he breaches confidentiality obligations to young patients and then admits to exploiting them; and whether it can do nothing while the psychologist, who has misrepresented his experience in Guantánamo, oversees the education of dozens of future psychologists in this state.”


“That the conduct at issue took place in Guantánamo surely makes its adjudication politically sensitive, but that in no way lessens the need for the Board to perform its duties.  Psychologists employed by the military are not exempt from the laws and rules governing psychologists in this state; on the contrary, the military expressly relies on state licensing boards to control the quality of their licensees’ services.  The Board has a clear legal duty to enforce its norms fairly, whether the psychologist is working in Guantánamo or an Ohio prison or an Ohio school.  Failure to do so in this case is an abdication of its duty to protect the public, and demeans the value of an Ohio psychology license and undermines professional standards in this state.”

For the full brief, click here.

Case History

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July 15, 2011

Establishing Sexual Rights in International Law

Posted by Cara Solomon

Kudos to Mindy Jane Roseman, our Academic Director, who co-authored an article in this summer’s issue of the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender.  Mindy’s expertise lies in sexual and reproductive rights; she’s currently working on a report about the forced sterilization of HIV-positive women in Namibia.

She co-authored the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender article, Normalizing Sex and its Discontents: Establishing Sexual Rights in International Law, with Alice M. Miller, an Associate Research Scholar in Law and Robina Foundation Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School.

Here’s how they describe the substance of it:

“Sexuality has become an essential component of humanity in the modern world, and in the last twenty years has become a major site upon which human rights claims have been advancing.  This article examines some of those claims, as they are articulated through the UN human rights machinery, and suggests that the nature of international law making, and the political economy of UN institutions, coupled with the sectoral nature of human rights claims making itself,  may impinge more upon the content of sexual rights than advocates realize.  Advancing human rights norms around sexuality is critical; advancing them with critical awareness (of the means of their production), however, is indispensible.”

Mindy’s been busy this year: the University of Pennsylvania Press recently released Reproductive Health and Human Rights: The Way Forward, a book she co-edited with Laura Reichenbach, Head of the Reproductive Health Unit at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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July 1, 2011

“Welcome, South Sudan, from Your Northern Friends”

As South Sudan’s official independence day approaches, former Satter fellow Nasredeen Abdulbari, LLM ’08, reflects on challenges past and present in a compelling piece for today’s Guardian.  He also offers a message of hope:

“The past six decades of northern and southern Sudan’s relations, no one could deny, were difficult, painful and full of problems.  However, our two nations need to open a new chapter, as we both move into the terra incognita of tomorrow.

In the name of all northern Sudanese, who have nothing in their hearts for the people of the south but love, I say to the people of South Sudan what Martin Luther King and others from all over the world said to the people of Ghana the day it gained its independence from Britain: ‘We greet you. And we give you our moral support.  We hope for you God’s guidance as you move now into the realm of independence.'”

Nasredeen is currently a lawyer, academic, and lecturer in the International and Comparative Law Department at the University of Khartoum.  For an article on his time at Harvard Law School, learn more from the Gazette.

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