Published time: November 04, 2013 14:32
Edited time: November 04, 2013 21:23

A US Navy doctor shows the feeding tubes and cans of Ensure nutritional liquid given to detainees on hunger strikes or not eating inside Camp Delta in the Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards)

A US Navy doctor shows the feeding tubes and cans of Ensure nutritional liquid given to detainees on hunger strikes or not eating inside Camp Delta in the Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards)

An independent report has charged that medical personnel, working under the direction of the Department of Defense and CIA in military defense facilities, violated medical ethics by participating in the torture of detainees.

The services provided by American doctors and psychologists included “designing, participating in, and enabling torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of detainees, according to the report.

The 19-member task force concluded that since September 11, 2001, the Department of Defense (DoD) and CIA ordered medical professionals to assist in intelligence gathering, as well as forced-feeding of hunger strikers, in a way that inflicted “severe harm” on detainees in US custody.

The authors of the 269-page report, entitled “Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the ‘War on Terror’” is based on information from unclassified, publicly available information.

The task force revealed that a “theory of interrogation” emerged in US detention facilities, including Guantanamo Bay detention camp, that was based on “personality disintegration” as a means of breaking down the resistance of the detainees in an effort to extract confessions and information.

Over time, new interrogation methods were developed by interrogators and psychologists from techniques used in the pre-9/11 Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program that was designed for training US troops to withstand interrogation and mistreatment techniques in the event they were captured.

The interrogators and medical professionals transformed torture-resistant tactics into abusive methods of interrogation, which they employed on detainees. This included so-called ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques, such as waterboarding, which involves covering a restrained detainee’s face with a towel and then soaking it with water. The technique is said to induce a feeling of drowning and complete helplessness.

The detainees are not permitted to receive treatment for the mental anguish caused by their torture.

The report also gave special mention to the Bush administration, which declared that the legal safeguards regarding the treatment of prisoners of war set down in the Geneva Convention did not apply to the “unlawful combatants” (i.e. terrorists) in the War on Terror.

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CIA made doctors torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, taskforce finds

Doctors were asked to torture detainees for intelligence gathering, and unethical practices continue, review concludes

CIA made doctors torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, taskforce finds

An al-Qaida detainee at Guantanamo Bay in 2002: the DoD has taken steps to address concerns over practices at the prison in recent years. Photograph: Shane T Mccoy/PA

Doctors and psychologists working for the US military violated the ethical codes of their profession under instruction from the defence department and the CIA to become involved in the torture and degrading treatment of suspected terrorists, an investigation has concluded.

The report of the Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centres concludes that after 9/11, health professionals working with the military and intelligence services “designed and participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees”.

Medical professionals were in effect told that their ethical mantra “first do no harm” did not apply, because they were not treating people who were ill.

The report lays blame primarily on the defence department (DoD) and the CIA, which required their healthcare staff to put aside any scruples in the interests of intelligence gathering and security practices that caused severe harm to detainees, from waterboarding to sleep deprivation and force-feeding.

The two-year review by the 19-member taskforce, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror, supported by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations, says that the DoD termed those involved in interrogation “safety officers” rather than doctors. Doctors and nurses were required to participate in the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike, against the rules of the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association. Doctors and psychologists working for the DoD were required to breach patient confidentiality and share what they knew of the prisoner’s physical and psychological condition with interrogators and were used as interrogators themselves. They also failed to comply with recommendations from the army surgeon general on reporting abuse of detainees.

The CIA’s office of medical services played a critical role in advising the justice department that “enhanced interrogation” methods, such as extended sleep deprivation and waterboarding, which are recognised as forms of torture, were medically acceptable. CIA medical personnel were present when waterboarding was taking place, the taskforce says.

 

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