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Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Lab

Human Rights and Trauma Mental Health Lab Director Daryn Reicherter testifying at the International Criminal Court.

Human Rights and Trauma Mental Health Lab Director Daryn Reicherter, M.D. testifying at the International Criminal Court

Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Lab​ Mission

The Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Laboratory is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Handa Center, Stanford Law School faculty, and Stanford’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. The Lab is committed to advancing and applying research on the physical and psychiatric impact of trauma on survivors of human rights abuses with an eye towards informing transitional justice and judicial processes. The Lab focuses on the science of the psychological changes and mental health pathology caused by trauma on individuals, their families, and their communities, over time and between generations.

Lab affiliates and colleagues analyze and build upon the rich data available in the interdisciplinary scientific literature and developed in specific conflict situations to clearly identify the impact on human psychology of various forms of mass trauma, including genocide, mass killings, rape, and torture. This analysis is used to clarify the science and/or advocate for the survivors’ human rights and mental health in a whole range of settings, including criminal trials, civil suits for money damages, and asylum proceedings. The Lab will participate in these transitional justice processes in a range of ways, including by providing expert testimony and reports and consulting with the legal teams prosecuting perpetrators or representing victims.

Current Projects

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)/Khmer Rouge Tribunal

The Lab has undertaken an extensive analysis of the effects of trauma on survivors of the Khmer Rouge era and performed a comprehensive analysis of the public mental health system in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Our published findings were accepted as evidence in the ECCC and used to influence sentencing and reparations in Case 002/1.  The book is available for the public: “Cambodia’s Hidden Scars: Trauma Mental Health in the Wake of the Khmer Rouge.

Our Lab has updated the findings in a new forthcoming volume: “Cambodia’s Hidden Scars: Trauma Psychology and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.” We have also consolidated our findings in the form of an expert report for use in Case 002/2.

International Criminal Court

The Lab has collaborated with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to examine and clarify the outcomes of crimes committed in the Central African Republic in the case of Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, the first ICC case to focus exclusively on crimes of sexual and gender-based violence. The Prosecutor’s Office retained our Lab as a consultant for the production of an expert report and in-court testimony.  Dr. Daryn Reicherter testified before the ICC during the sentencing phase of this landmark case regarding violence against women. For more information on the testimony, please visit here

For more information on ICC v Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, please visit here.

Mental Health Outcomes of Prolonged Isolation

The Lab has recently begun a consultation with the Center for Constitutional Rights aimed at examining the effects of prolonged isolation in “solitary confinement” on the mental health of inmates in California prisons.  This project aims to collect known research on the topic and produce original data on the psychiatric changes produces by long-term solitary confinement.  Ensuring an accurate understanding of the effects of prolonged isolation and solitary confinement on the human psyche will optimize the ability for courts and policy makers addressing this important human rights topic.

Prosecution of Human Rights Violators Now in the United States

The Lab has begun consultation with attorneys challenging the impunity of persons now residing in the United States who have been deemed responsible for human rights violations abroad.  We are examining the mental health effects of torture in Somalia in an effort to demonstrate damages caused to survivors of previous violations. For more information on this projects, please visit here

Humanitarian Parole Project for Survivors of Gender-Based Violence

The Lab has collaborated with international human rights lawyers to provide forensic evaluations and expert opinions in immigration legal processes invoking mental health outcomes as a basis for humanitarian parole. More than 60 individuals from post-earthquake Haiti have won humanitarian parole on the basis of trauma-related mental health outcomes.

For more information on this project, please visit here.  

Safe Relocation for Refugees and other Vulnerable Survivors of Human Rights Violations through Immigration Protections (Middle East)

Based on the successes of the Humanitarian Parole Project in Haiti, the Lab has collaborated with international human rights lawyers to provide additional forensic evaluations and expert opinions aimed at immigration courts and policy makers in effort to assist with the safe relocation of survivors.  The project centers on the Middle East, with Syrian and Iraqi victims of war crimes as the major focus of advocacy.