Reprieve testifies at US music torture conference as Elbow and Dizzee Rascal join ‘silent protest’

May 14, 2009

Image of a spotlight in a dark room

Reprieve will join academics, musicians and journalists in New York tomorrow to discuss the use of ear-splitting music as an ‘enhanced interrogation technique’.

Despite President Obama’s opposition to torture, the CIA technique – which involves deafening music played for hours, days and months on end – has not been banned, or even classified as torture, and is still in use.

Hosted by the Human Rights Project at Bard College, the conference will gather scholars of music, history and philosophy to investigate what links music to torture. Reprieve’s Chloe Davies will speak about our clients’ experience of music torture in the Guantanamo Bay and US secret prisons worldwide.

Chloe will also bring Reprieve’s innovative zero dB campaign – now supported by Elbow, Massive Attack, Dizzee Rascal and The Doves – to the United States.

zero dB aims to stop torture music by encouraging widespread condemnation of the practice and by calling on governments and the UN to enforce the Convention Against Torture and other relevant treaties.

In a striking ‘petition of silent protests’, zero dB supporters are each filmed standing in silence; each clip is added to a long and powerful video petition. The petition can be seen and joined at

Musicians are using the campaign to register their outrage at the misuse of their work and, together with the Musician’s Union, are urging fans and the public to sign up. Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, said: “Torture should have been left in the Middle Ages; yet it rears its head in new forms. Music torture tears people apart mentally – as much as any razorblade. I encourage everyone to join our silent protest against the use of music torture.”


For further information, please contact Reprieve’s Alex Grace: 07779614054/ or Katherine O’Shea: 07931592674/

Notes to the Editor:

    The Human Rights Project was founded in 1993 to protect the rights of immigrants and refugees. Its vision is to raise awareness of human rights and to win protection, under the law, for those whose human rights have been threatened and violated. More info:
    The Musicians’ Union was established in 1893 and represents over 30,000 musicians working in all genres of music. As well as negotiating on behalf of its members with all the major employers in the industry, the MU offers a range of services tailored for the self-employed by providing assistance for professional and student musicians of all ages. More info:
    Reprieve currently represents over 30 prisoners held in Guantánamo Bay, many of whom have been subjected to torture and other forms of cruel and inhuman treatment. Reprieve also seeks to reunite people in other secret prisons around the world with their rights. Reprieve became concerned by the frequent mention of music torture whilst interviewing clients. It became clear that music is being used as part of brutal psychological torture in the so called ‘war on terror’. Reprieve launched zero dB to put an end to this practice.
    Zero Db Manifesto: Ear-splitting music played for days and months on end: this is modern torture. While leaving no physical marks on the body, the devastation wreaked on the mind can last a lifetime. The UN and European Court of Human Rights have banned music torture, but to this day its use in secret prisons around the world is widespread: all in the name of the ‘War on Terror’. Zero dB aims to stop torture music by encouraging widespread condemnation of the practice and by calling on governments and the UN to uphold their obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture and other relevant treaties.
     Zero dB Petition I condemn the use of music to torture and call on governments and the UN to take a stand against it and uphold their obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture and relevant treaties.

Reprieve is a legal action charity, founded by Clive Stafford Smith in 1999. Reprieve uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. We investigate, litigate and educate. Working on the frontline, we provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves, promoting the rule of law around the world, and securing each person’s right to a fair trial. In doing so, we save lives.

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