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In Wake of ICRC Report, Health Professionals Must Be Held Accountable for Torture

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7 Apr 09 | Physicians for Human Rights

The full disclosure of a confidential International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report on CIA treatment of detainees is confirmation of what Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has been alleging for years. Health professionals violated ethical duties by participating in the torture and abuse of detainees in US custody. PHR has long demanded a full investigation into the role health professionals played in detainee treatment. PHR again calls upon health professional associations to support a non-partisan commission of inquiry.


“It is time for the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and others to demand a nonpartisan commission to investigate these crimes,” said Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer of PHR. “The associations must sanction any of their membership found to have violated their professional ethics.”

“The Bush Administration weaponized medicine by using health professionals to break the bodies and minds of detainees,” stated John Bradshaw, PHR’s Washington Director. “Congress must act to restore medical ethics by finally authorizing a non-partisan commission to probe these crimes.”

PHR helped create the ethical prohibitions against health professional participation in national security interrogations. Consistent with previous PHR findings, the ICRC report concludes that “the interrogation process is contrary to international law and the participation of health personnel in such a process is contrary to international standards of medical ethics.” The ICRC report also finds that “their primary purpose appears to have been to serve the interrogation process, and not the patient. In so doing the health personnel have condoned, and participated in ill-treatment.”

In a report released last year, Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact, former detainees medically evaluated by PHR reported similar instances of medical complicity in torture. Hafez, an Iraqi detainee who was held at Abu Ghraib, reports that his arm was dislocated during an abusive interrogation. He states that an individual, whom he believed was a doctor, put his arm back in place and told the interrogators to “continue.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) mobilizes the health professions to advance the health and dignity of all people by protecting human rights. As a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, PHR shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.

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Written by Editors

8 April 2009 at 3:47 pm

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