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Medicine Torture

Secret Report Reveals Participation of Medical Professionals in Torture at CIA Black Sites

April 6, 2009

The report describes “three principal roles” played by medical professionals, including “monitoring the ongoing ill-treatment” of prisoners.

Medical professionals working for the CIA played a central role in the “ill-treatment” of terror suspects in U.S. custody overseas, according to a previously confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The 2007 report describes interviews with 14 “high value detainees” who were transferred to Guantanamo Bay in September 2006, revealing the full extent of complicity and participation by medical personnel in a wide and grisly range of torture methods inflicted upon them. Listed in the table of contents of the 41-page report, these methods included “suffocation by water,” “prolonged stress standing,” “beatings by use of a collar,” “beating and kicking,” “confinement in a box,” “prolonged nudity,” and more.

The ICRC report describes “three principal roles” played by medical professionals in the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody. “Firstly, there was a direct role in monitoring the ongoing ill-treatment which, in some instances, involved the health personnel directly participating while certain methods were used.”

Secondly, there was a role in performing a medical check just prior to, and just after,each transfer. Finally, there was the provision of healthcare, to treat both the direct consequences of ill-treatment detailed in previous sections, and to treat any natural ailments that arose during the prolonged periods of detention.

According to the report, which was obtained by journalist Mark Danner — who first published excerpts last month and has now published its full contents on the website of the New York Review of Books — certain methods required more active participation by medical professions. For example, in subjecting prisoners to “suffocation by water,” “it was alleged that health personnel actively monitored a detainee’s oxygen saturation using what, from the description of the detainee of a device placed over the finger, appeared to be a pulse oxymeter.” …



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