Medical personnel present as part of the Bush administration's enhanced interrogations [JURIST news archive] were collecting and analyzing data in order to develop more effective interrogation procedures, according to a report [materials] released Monday by the advocacy group Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) [advocacy website]. The techniques used by the interrogators, including waterboarding [JURIST news archive], sleep deprivation, and prolonged isolation, were recognized as legal if medical personnel were present and responsible for ensuring the legal threshold for "severe physical and mental pain" was not crossed in violation of the US War Crimes Act [text]. The report contends the collection of data was used not to protect the health of the person being interrogated, but rather in an experimental fashion to justify and shape future interrogation procedures. If proven, the use of humans as research subjects would be in violation of the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremburg Code [materials], as well as other national and international laws. PHR also contends that while the Bush administration's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos [text, PDF] may provide a legal defense against claims of torture, that protection would not extend to claims of human experimentation, stating:
[T]he Bush administration's legal framework to protect CIA interrogators from violating US statutory and treaty obligations prohibiting torture effectively contravened well-established legal and ethical codes, that, had they been enforced, should have protected prisoners against human experimentation, and should have prevented the "enhanced" interrogation program from being initiated in the first place. There is no evidence that the Office of Legal Counsel ever assessed the lawfulness of the medical monitoring of torture, as it did with the use of the "enhanced" techniques themselves.The report lists a series of recommendations, including investigations by the US Attorney General, the US Office for Human Research Protection (OHRP), and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture [official websites]. PHR also calls on the US Congress to amend the War Crimes act to ensure its compliance with the Geneva Convention.
This report is the latest incident in a long string of medical condemnations of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] and the medical professionals working in it. Last April, the International Committee of the Red Cross [official website] released a report [text, PDF] alleging that medical professionals violated codes of medical ethics [JURIST report] by participating in and assisting in ill-treatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees. In September 2007, doctors from 16 countries wrote a letter [JURIST report] condemning the US military for its treatment of detainees, particularly the policy of force-feeding to counteract hunger strikes. A month earlier, a commentary [text] published in the Journal of the American Medical Association [journal website] asserted that force-feeding was a violation of medical ethics [JURIST report].