Records show US medical staff experimented on terror suspectsAFP
June 6, 2010
WASHINGTON - Medical personnel apparently experimented on terror detainees during CIA-led torture after the September 11 attacks, aiming to improve interrogation techniques, a human rights group said Monday.
Physicians for Human Rights said it obtained public records showing health professionals worked under the supervision of the Central Intelligence Agency during interrogations of "war on terror" detainees after the 2001 attacks.
The doctors and medical staff witnessed waterboarding, forced nudity, sleep deprivation, temperature extremes and prolonged isolation among other techniques.
The experimentation and research "appear to have been performed to provide legal cover for torture," the group said.
Nathaniel Raymond, a lead author of the report, said it highlights evidence that medical personnel "were calibrating the harm inflicted by these techniques allegedly and also looking to extend their knowledge about the effects of the technique."
The report said that in the case of waterboarding -- a technique that simulates drowning -- medical teams replaced plain water in the waterboarding procedure with saline solution.
This was done "ostensibly to reduce the detainees? risk of contracting pneumonia and or hyponatremia, a condition of low sodium levels in the blood caused by free water intoxication, which can lead to brain edema and herniation, coma, and death," the report said.
Although the use of cruel and inhuman treatment had been documented before, the report said the new evidence shows health professionals actively participated in research and experimentation on detainees in US custody during questioning.
"Such acts may be seen as the conduct of research and experimentation by health professionals on prisoners, which could violate accepted standards of medical ethics, as well as domestic and international law," the report said.
"These practices could, in some cases, constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity."
Medical personnel "were ostensibly responsible for ensuring that the legal threshold for 'severe physical and mental pain' was not crossed by interrogators," it added.
But, the group said, "their presence and complicity in intentionally harmful interrogation practices were not only apparently intended to enable the routine practice of torture, but also to serve as a potential legal defense against criminal liability for torture."
"Not only are these alleged acts gross violations of human rights law, they are a grave affront to America's core values," the report said.
"The CIA appears to have broken all accepted legal and ethical standards put in place since the Second World War to protect prisoners from being the subjects of experimentation," said Frank Donaghue, chief executive of the organization.
The report called on President Barack Obama to order "an immediate criminal investigation of alleged illegal human experimentation."
It also called for a probe of violations by the CIA of protections against human research experiments and for Congress to amend the War Crimes Act "to eliminate changes made to the act in 2006 which weaken the prohibition on biological experimentation on detainees."
The physician's group said the latest revelations suggest "that health professionals engaged in research on detainees that violates the Geneva Conventions, The Common Rule (on US government research policies), the Nuremberg Code and other international and domestic prohibitions against illegal human subject research and experimentation."
"In their attempt to justify the war crime of torture, the CIA appears to have committed another alleged war crime -- illegal experimentation on prisoners," said Raymond.
"Justice Department lawyers appear to never have assessed the lawfulness of the alleged research on detainees in CIA custody, despite how essential it appears to have been to their legal cover for torture."