Physical and psychological torture ignored or covered up by medical personnel at guantanamo bay

Physical and psychological torture ignored or covered up by medical personnel at guantanamo bay

Despite bone fractures and interrogation methods defined as torture by the UN Convention Against Torture, medical personnel at Guantanamo Bay either did not document cases or make inquiries into the psychological symptoms and physical injuries of nine detainees, researchers reveal in the journal PLoS Medicine.

The study,

The nine detainees claimed their interrogations were abusive and included:

  • Severe beatings which led to broken bones
  • Sexual assault
  • Threat of rape
  • Fake executions
  • Mock disappearance
  • Almost being asphyxiated from water
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Being exposed to extremes of temperature
  • Being forced into painful positions for long periods
  • Forced nudity
Non-governmental forensic experts who evaluated the nine cases found evidence of physical and psychological abuse in the medical records consistent with the detainees' allegations.

Even though such injuries were recorded, Department of Defense medical personnel never inquired what caused them. All psychological signs and symptoms were attributed to "personality disorders" and "routine stressors of confinement". None of them were attributed to the interrogation sessions.

One detainee said his medical records were used to cause him more pain - "his chronic back pain was exploited by interrogators with the use of prolonged, painful stress positions."

The authors wrote that their forensic evaluations of these nine detainees revealed torture or ill treatment. They stressed that only these 9 were investigated by them.

The Department of Defense medical and mental health personnel at Guantanamo Bay clearly failed in their basic medical duty to the detainees, the authors added.

The investigators wrote:

"The full extent of medical complicity in US torture practices will not be known until there is a thorough, impartial investigation including relevant classified information."

Accompanying Editorial

PLoS Medicine Editors wrote:

.... "publishing peer-reviewed documentary evidence of harm - especially from settings difficult to access such as prisons or conflict settings - is a vital and important role of medical journals. This paper adds new evidence that will bolster calls for further investigation into the complicity of medical personnel in torture at Guantánamo Bay, which clearly breaches fundamental human rights."

"Neglect of Medical Evidence of Torture in Guantánamo Bay: A Case Series"

Vincent Iacopino, Stephen N. Xenakis

PLoS Med 8(4): e1001027. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001027

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Section Issues On Medicine: Medical practice