CIA medical professionals accused of committing war crimes
Federal investigators in the United States should considering weighing whether or not health workers involved in the interrogation tactics highlighted in the recent CIA torture port should be charged with war crimes, a group said this week.
Physicians for Human Rights, a New York-headquartered organization that examines instances of atrocities and severe human rights violations within the medical field, released a report [PDF] on Tuesday urging for federal authorities in the US to open up a probe concerning revelations contained in the so-called “torture report” released last week by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence after a nearly four-year-long investigation.
“The torture report’s executive summary describes in detail the acts and omissions of CIA health professionals who violated their professional ethics, undermined the critical bond of trust between patients and doctors and broke the law,” PHR said in a statement that accompanied the release of this week’s report. “PHR calls for a federal commission to investigate, document and hold accountable all health professionals who participated in the CIA torture program.”
According to the Senate committee’s findings contained in the executive summary released last week in which the full report is described, CIA agents stationed overseas after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks participated in a program wherein foreign suspects were detained and subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques,” or EITs, that included waterboarding and sleep deprivation. Additionally, the Senate committee concluded, detainees were routinely force-fed rectally, according to the Senate’s investigation, despite officials having not found any medical necessity in doing as much. As RT reported previously, the Senate panel noted that, as a result, detainees suffered from rectal prolapses and other after-effects, and that such tactics appeared to be conducted to coerce prisoners into disclosing intelligence. Ultimately, the Senate concluded that the EITs used by CIA agents failed to directly provide any critical terrorism-related intelligence.
“One of the most egregious examples of direct medical participation in torture is the use of rectal rehydration or rectal feeding on at least five detainees,” the PHR said in Tuesday’s report. “Rectal hydration is almost never practiced in medicine because there are more effective means, such as oral and intravenous fluid administration. It is never considered as a first-line form of therapy for rehydration or nutritional support. The large colon has the capacity to absorb fluids, but has a very limited capacity to absorb nutrients with the exception of glucose and electrolytes. Pureed food and nutritional supplements, such as Ensure, should never be administered rectally.”
“The use of rectal hydration and feeding, according to the SSCI summary, was conducted ‘without medical necessity,’ meaning oral and/or IV access was possible in these individuals. Moreover, the summary indicates that rectal hydration was used to control and/or punish the detainees,” adding,“Insertion of any object into the rectum of an individual without his consent constitutes a form of sexual assault.”
In the week since the SSCI summary was made public, former government officials who served high-ranking position during the administration of President George W. Bush when the tactics were used have defended the CIA’s techniques. John Brennan, a CIA agent during 9/11 who today leads the agency, refused to call the tactics described by the Senate panel as “torture”; similarly, former vice president Dick Cheney shrugged off allegations of torture during an interview with CBS this week and said the agents who deployed the program should be praised and decorated.
According to PHR, past CIA tactics should be considered “not only a gross breach of medical and professional ethics, but also violations of domestic and international law.”
“Given the seriousness of this crime, torture is subject to universal jurisdiction and obligates the state to prosecute those responsible. Some of the crimes detailed in the summary may reach the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which are also subject to universal jurisdiction. PHR calls on the current US administration to hold those responsible for torture – including physicians, psychologists and other health professionals – legally and ethically accountable for their actions.”