US army doctors sanctioned torture in CIA and Pentagon jails – report
Released by Columbia University's Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the Open Society Foundations on Monday, the report is a two-year study by a 19-member taskforce, which comprises medics, army officers, lawyers and ethics experts, of public records on the treatment and condition of inmates in the notorious Guantanamo prison and detention centers at US military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The report accuses the Pentagon and the CIA of illegally involving military doctors in torture-like methods practiced during interrogations.
The survey claims that the Defense Department and the CIA demanded that the health care personnel "collaborate in intelligence gathering and security practices in a way that inflicted severe harm on detainees in US custody."
"It's clear that in the name of national security, the military trumped [the Hippocratic Oath], and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice," said study co-author Gerald Thomson, professor of medicine emeritus at Columbia University.
Among the cited cruelties that inmates at secret sites suffered at the hands of CIA agents were harsh interrogation methods and simulated drowning, known as waterboarding, while Guantanamo Bay's prisoners were force-fed to end a months-long hunger strike.
The US Defense Department has denied the accusations as absurd, arguing that the authors of the report had no direct access to inmates or their medical data or the description of interrogations and have probably relied on information from inmates' lawyers. Inmates in special detention facilities were provided with better medical services than they could have ever hoped for, Pentagon's spokesman Colonel J. Todd Breasseale said, commenting on the report.
CIA spokesperson Dean Boyd claimed the CIA did not "have any detainees in its custody" since President Obama terminated the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program by executive order in 2009.
Barack Obama signed an executive order shortly after taking office in 2009 that banned interrogation techniques used under his predecessor and that critics said amounted to torture. Nevertheless the new rules allow suspects to be tortured after they are transferred to a different country.
In 2009 the group Physicians for Human Rights said that doctors were ordered to monitor the CIA's interrogation techniques to improve their effectiveness, which amounted to "unlawful experimentation" on detainees treated as human subjects.
Alexei Martynov, Director of the International Institute for New States, has been shocked by the report's conclusions.
"It's absurd, incredible. We all condemn terrorism, we don't accept it. But a doctor involved in torture, in some sort of executions, cannot be justified. It reminds me of Doctor Mengele [Josef Mengele, a German doctor infamous for his inhumane experiments on Nazi death camp inmates during World War II]. It's terrible," he told the Voice of Russia.
"Whoever is a person subject to torture, torture is a crime – a war crime if it takes place during a military operation. No matter what a terror suspect did, his deeds cannot justify Doctor Mengele's followers. Such doctors deserve severe condemnation, above all, in their professional environment," the expert said.
As for the possibility of any of those doctors being sued by their victims, he said that such lawsuits would most probably be swept under the rug in America, although any citizen is free to sue. "Even you and I can sue them because we are outraged," Martynov said.
Voice of Russia, RIA, AFP