US & Canada

Doctors aided US torture at military prisons, report says

Guantanamo Bay detention centre. (File image)
Image caption Washington insists detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere are well treated

Doctors and nurses working under US military orders have been complicit in the abuse of terrorism suspects, a new independent US report says.

The study says medical professionals helped design, enable and participated in "torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" of detainees.

The report was compiled by an independent panel of military, health, ethics and legal experts.

Both the CIA and the Pentagon have rejected the report's findings.

The two-year study was carried out by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundations.

The report says the collusion began at US prisons in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and at CIA secret detention sites after the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.

Co-author Leonard Rubenstein told the BBC's Newsday programme that the report revealed "the legacy of torture and detainee abuse at Guantanamo and elsewhere on the medical community".

"What we found was that the department of defence and the CIA actually changed core ethical standards to facilitate participation by health professionals in the abuse of detainees. And those distortions still exist," he said.


The report says that while some practices such as waterboarding have now been banned, medical professionals are still being required to force-feed detainees, including those at Guantanamo Bay.

"One [example] is the use of physicians to force-feed detainees and using very coercive restraint chairs in a way that violates the ethical standards of the World Medical Association and American medical groups," said Mr Rubenstein, Senior Scholar at the Center for Human Rights and Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"Another is participation in interrogations where health professionals search for vulnerabilities which interrogators can exploit."

The report calls on the US Senate Intelligence Committee to fully investigate medical practices at the detention sites.

However, the CIA and the Pentagon rejected the report's findings.

CIA public affairs chief Dean Boyd said the report "contains serious inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions".

"It's important to underscore that the CIA does not have any detainees in its custody and President [Barack] Obama terminated the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program by executive order in 2009," he said.

Pentagon spokesman Todd Breasseale said that none of the critics of prisoner care had access to the detainees, their medical records, or the procedures at Guantanamo.

He described the doctors and nurses working at Guantanamo as "consummate professionals".

Mr Breasseale said they routinely provided "not only better medical care than any of these detainees have ever known, but care on par with the very best of the global medical profession".

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