Guantanamo Doctors Ignored Signs of Prisoner Torture, Group Says

U.S. military doctors at Guantanamo Bay ignored signs of torture at the military prison and failed to investigate physical and psychological injuries they observed there, according to a study in the medical journal PLoS Medicine.

An examination of medical records of nine inmates at the U.S. military prison in Cuba revealed clear signs of injuries consistent with torture as defined by a United Nations treaty, and exceeding interrogation limits the U.S. considered legal, according to the report.

“Medical doctors and mental health personnel assigned to the U.S. Department of Defense neglected and/or concealed medical evidence of intentional harm,” wrote Dr. Vincent Iacopino, senior medical adviser for Physicians for Human Rights, and Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a retired U.S. Army Brigadier General. “These findings reveal new information about the potential extent of medical complicity in U.S. torture practices.”

Of the 779 detainees in the War on Terror taken to the special prison at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, 600 have been transferred or released and 172 remain. Seven prisoners have died in custody. Conditions there have been condemned by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which reported allegations that detainees were kicked and beaten, denied medical care, confined in small boxes, and physically and psychologically abused.

Medical Evaluations

Specific allegations of torture and ill treatment by the prisoners studied were “highly consistent” with the medical evaluations compiled by doctors at Guantanamo, the study said.

They noted that under internationally accepted guidelines for physicians, “the commission and/or concealment of acts of torture should never be justified by any health professionals,” inside or outside the military.

“To our knowledge, this case review is the first study to provide evidence that Guantanamo medical providers aided in concealing evidence of torture and the complicity of health professions in torture practices,” Iacopino said in a e-mail.

Lieutenant Colonel Tanya Bradsher, a spokeswoman for the Department of Defense, said she couldn’t immediately comment.

Based on the information they studied, the authors wrote that U.S. policy makers did not act in good faith to ensure that their enhanced interrogation techniques were “safe, legal, ethical and effective.” In fact, interrogations included unauthorized “acts of torture,” the study said.

Failed to Inquire

Doctors and mental health personnel who treated the detainees at Guantanamo failed to inquire or document causes of the physical injuries they observed, the report said. Instead, the health professionals attributed psychological symptoms to “personality disorders,” and “routine stressors of confinement.”

“The abuses reported in this case series could not be practiced without the interrogators and medical monitors being aware of the severe and prolonged physical and mental pain that they caused,” the authors wrote.

“The full extent of medical complicity in U.S. torture practices will not be known until there is a thorough, impartial investigation including relevant classified information,” they concluded.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter S. Green in New York at psgreen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

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