Citing government documents including sworn testimony of detainees and troops, the respected Lancet weekly in its latest issue published on Saturday, outlined a disturbing litany of failures to safeguard detainees’ human rights at the prison.
It said that the failures in some instances constitute serious breaches of international law, providing a further embarrassment for the military, which has already been rocked by documented abuses of Iraqi prisoners by its troops.
“Medical personnel evaluated detainees for interrogation, and monitored coercive interrogation, allowed interrogators to use medical records to develop interrogation approaches, falsified medical records and death certificates, and failed to provide basic healthcare,” it said.
One of the most startling charges in the article by Steven Miles of the University of Minnesota was that medical personnel collaborated with the military in “designing and implementing psychologically and physically coercive interrogations”.
It also gave an example where a detainee collapsed and was apparently unconscious after a beating. Medical staff then revived the detainee and left, and the abuse continued.
Faking death certificates
Miles said that the medical system failed to report illnesses and injuries accurately at the prison, where US soldiers were photographed abusing and sexually humiliating naked Iraqi prisoners.
Medics failed to report inmates’
Death certificates of prisoners held in US custody in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been falsified or their completion delayed for months, he said.
In one case “a medic inserted a intravenous catheter into the corpse of a detainee who died under torture in order to create evidence that he was alive at the hospital”.
A surgeon stated that the death of Iraqi Major-General Muhush was of natural causes after his head was pushed into a sleeping bag while interrogators sat on his chest.
“Six months later, the Pentagon released a death certificate calling the death a homicide by asphyxia.”
Untreated torture victims
According to a prisoner’s sworn testimony, a festering hand wound caused by torture went untreated.
“The described offences do not merely fall short of medical ideals; some constitute grave breaches of international or US law”
The study concluded that although the US army’s medical services are mainly staffed by humane personnel, “the described offences do not merely fall short of medical ideals; some constitute grave breaches of international or US law”.
By the standards of the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war, “the moral advocacy of military medicine for the detainees of the war on terror broke down”.
It also laments that army medics failed to report abuses at Abu Ghraib even though knowledge of torture and degrading treatment was widespread within the system there.
It also cited isolated reports that medical personnel directly abused detainees.
“Two detainees’ depositions describe an incident where a doctor allowed a medically untrained guard to suture a prisoner’s laceration from being beaten,” it said.
* Image courtesy of the Washington Post