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Rights groups file legal complaint over CIA interrogation experiments

Several human rights and civil liberties groups on Wednesday filed a formal complaint [text] with the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) [official website] calling for an official investigation into a recent report [JURIST report] alleging that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] engaged in illegal human experimentation as part of the Bush administration's enhanced interrogation [JURIST news archive] program. 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 by the medical personnel 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. The use of humans as research subjects is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremburg Code [materials], as well as other national and international laws. The OHRP, part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) [official website], is given authority under the "Common Rule" [45 CFR § 46] to investigate complaints filed against US government departments that allege the violation of statutes regarding human experimentation. They can issue sanctions against the offending department or refer the case to the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] for further investigation. A spokesperson for Physicians for Human Rights [advocacy website] cited OHRP's obligation to investigate [press release] stating:

OHRP has a legal responsibility to investigate these disturbing new allegations about the CIA and possible illegal human experimentation on detainees, despite the refusal by Langely and the White House to do so. OHRP has a reputation for enforcing strict adherence to human research protections, which it must bring to bear against any CIA malfeasance that it uncovers.
The CIA has denied conducting medical experiments [AP report] as part of the interrogation program.

Monday's 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].

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