2009. április 7., kedd

Secret Report Reveals Role of Medical Personnel in Torture at CIA Black Sites

by Liliana Segura, AlterNet

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."

"Mr. Khaled Shaik Mohammed alleged that on several occasions the suffocation method was stopped on the intervention of a health person who was present in the room each time this procedure was used."

KSM, one of the few prisoners who the U.S. government has actually acknowledged having waterboarding, described his experience to ICRC staff.

I would be strapped to a special bed, which can be rotated into a vertical position. A cloth would be placed over my face. Water was then poured onto the cloth by one of the guards so that I could not breathe. This obviously could only be done for one or two minutes at a time. The cloth was then removed and the bed was put into a vertical position. The whole process was then repeated during about 1 hour.

Abu Zubaydah, whose torture has also been widely documented, described it as follows:

I was put on what looked like a hospital bed, and strapped down very tightly with belts. A black cloth was then placed over my face and the interrogators used a mineral water bottle to pour water on the cloth so that I could not breathe. After a few minutes the cloth was removed and the bed was rotated into an upright position. The pressure of the straps on my wounds caused severe pain. I vomited. The bed was then again lowered to a horizontal position and the same torture carried out with the black cloth over my face and water poured on from a bottle. On this occasion my head was in a more backward, downwards position and the water was poured on for a longer time. I struggled without success to breathe. I thought I was going to die. I lost control of my urine. Since then I still lose control of my urine when under stress.

The conclusion by the ICRC was that the interrogation of prisoners at U.S. "black sites" certainly "constituted torture." But additionally, "the alleged participation of health personnel in the interrogation process and, either directly or indirectly, in the infliction of ill-treatment constituted a gross breach of medical ethics and, in some cases, amounted to participation in torture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

Indeed, the presence of medical professionals seemed itself to augment the psychological torture. "One detainee,who did not wish his name to be transmitted to the authorities, alleged that a health person threatened that medical care would be conditional upon cooperation with the interrogators." Another recalled being told: "I look after your body only because we need you for information."

Liliana Segura is a staff writer and editor of AlterNet's Rights and Liberties and War on Iraq Special Coverage.

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