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Assessing the level of credibility of allegations of physical torture.
Forensic Sci Int. 2019 Aug; 301:263-270.FS

Abstract

BACKGROUND

No means exists to classify the overall credibility of physical torture allegations, which relies on qualitative forensic medical criteria.

OBJECTIVES

To develop procedures for processing physical data from torture allegations in order to achieve robust credibility assessments. To assess inter-observer variation in semi-quantitative evaluations. To analyse the importance of physical aspects for the overall assessment of allegations of torture. To assess the correlation between a quantitative description of physical aspects of torture and the appraisal of credibility based on the semi-quantitative model.

METHODS

We developed a semi-quantitative model to assess credibility of physical torture allegations and a model to describe allegations quantitatively. Information about physical aspects of ill-treatment in 202 extensive reports made by psychologists (part of a Basque Country Governmental project) was appraised individually and jointly by the two authors in the semi-quantitative model. Inter-observer variation was appraised. The assessed credibility based on physical details was compared with the psychologists' overall assessments and with the quantitative scoring of physical data.

FINDINGS

The inter-observer agreement was substantial with kappa values of 0.64-0.77. Peer-reviewing revealed an error; using the defined criteria in the models facilitated achievement of common opinions. Comparison of credibility assessments found by different means suggests that physical data may be given a low priority in the overall assessment of torture allegations. There was a strong correlation (r=0,86, p<0.001) between the semi-quantitative credibility assessment and the quantitative scoring of physical aspects of torture, reinforcing the validity of both means.

CONCLUSION

Peer-reviewing of physical aspects of torture based on a qualitative /semi-quantitative /quantitative multi-step analysis leads to robust assessments of credibility. A procedure is needed on how to merge the credibility assessments of the psychological and the physical data into an overall conclusion. We suggest that the highest level of the two evaluations should constitute the overall credibility assessment.

LIMITATIONS

The examinations were done years after the detentions, they were not focused on physical details and the data we used was retrieved retrospectively.

Authors+Show Affiliations

Istanbul Protocol Project in the Basque Country (IPP-BC) Working Group, Granstuevej 13, DK-2840 Holte, Denmark. Electronic address: hdp@dadlnet.dk.Section of Forensic Pathology, Basque Institute of Legal Medicine, University of the Basque Country, Spain. Electronic address: morentin.b@justizia.eus.

Pub Type(s)

Journal Article

Language

eng

PubMed ID

31185439

Citation

Petersen, Hans Draminsky, and Benito Morentin. "Assessing the Level of Credibility of Allegations of Physical Torture." Forensic Science International, vol. 301, 2019, pp. 263-270.
Petersen HD, Morentin B. Assessing the level of credibility of allegations of physical torture. Forensic Sci Int. 2019;301:263-270.
Petersen, H. D., & Morentin, B. (2019). Assessing the level of credibility of allegations of physical torture. Forensic Science International, 301, 263-270. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2019.05.043
Petersen HD, Morentin B. Assessing the Level of Credibility of Allegations of Physical Torture. Forensic Sci Int. 2019;301:263-270. PubMed PMID: 31185439.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - JOUR T1 - Assessing the level of credibility of allegations of physical torture. AU - Petersen,Hans Draminsky, AU - Morentin,Benito, Y1 - 2019/05/29/ PY - 2018/12/12/received PY - 2019/05/22/accepted PY - 2019/6/12/pubmed PY - 2019/7/30/medline PY - 2019/6/12/entrez KW - Credibility assessment KW - Forensic medicine KW - Ill-treatment KW - Istanbul Protocol KW - Physical torture SP - 263 EP - 270 JF - Forensic science international JO - Forensic Sci. Int. VL - 301 N2 - BACKGROUND: No means exists to classify the overall credibility of physical torture allegations, which relies on qualitative forensic medical criteria. OBJECTIVES: To develop procedures for processing physical data from torture allegations in order to achieve robust credibility assessments. To assess inter-observer variation in semi-quantitative evaluations. To analyse the importance of physical aspects for the overall assessment of allegations of torture. To assess the correlation between a quantitative description of physical aspects of torture and the appraisal of credibility based on the semi-quantitative model. METHODS: We developed a semi-quantitative model to assess credibility of physical torture allegations and a model to describe allegations quantitatively. Information about physical aspects of ill-treatment in 202 extensive reports made by psychologists (part of a Basque Country Governmental project) was appraised individually and jointly by the two authors in the semi-quantitative model. Inter-observer variation was appraised. The assessed credibility based on physical details was compared with the psychologists' overall assessments and with the quantitative scoring of physical data. FINDINGS: The inter-observer agreement was substantial with kappa values of 0.64-0.77. Peer-reviewing revealed an error; using the defined criteria in the models facilitated achievement of common opinions. Comparison of credibility assessments found by different means suggests that physical data may be given a low priority in the overall assessment of torture allegations. There was a strong correlation (r=0,86, p<0.001) between the semi-quantitative credibility assessment and the quantitative scoring of physical aspects of torture, reinforcing the validity of both means. CONCLUSION: Peer-reviewing of physical aspects of torture based on a qualitative /semi-quantitative /quantitative multi-step analysis leads to robust assessments of credibility. A procedure is needed on how to merge the credibility assessments of the psychological and the physical data into an overall conclusion. We suggest that the highest level of the two evaluations should constitute the overall credibility assessment. LIMITATIONS: The examinations were done years after the detentions, they were not focused on physical details and the data we used was retrieved retrospectively. SN - 1872-6283 UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/31185439/Assessing_the_level_of_credibility_of_allegations_of_physical_torture_ L2 - https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0379-0738(19)30238-5 DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -