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Nuremberg Betrayed: Human Experimentation and the CIA Torture Program

Human Experimentation

June 2017

Read the report (pdf)

Based on an analysis of thousands of pages of documents and years of research, Physicians for Human Rights shows that the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program constituted an illegal, unethical regime of experimental research on unwilling human subjects, testing the flawed hypothesis that torture could aid interrogators in breaking the resistance of detainees. In “Nuremberg Betrayed: Human Experimentation and the CIA Torture Program,” PHR researchers show that CIA contract psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen created a research program in which health professionals designed and applied torture techniques and collected data on torture’s effects. This constitutes one of the gravest breaches of medical ethics by U.S. health personnel since the Nuremberg Code was developed in the wake of Nazi medical atrocities committed during World War Two.

Delving into the role health professionals played in designing and implementing torture, the report uses newly released documents to show how the results of untested, brutal torture techniques were used to calibrate the machinery of the torture program. The large-scale experiment’s flawed findings were also used by Bush administration lawyers to create spurious legal cover for the entire program.

PHR calls on all medical and scientific communities to convene a commission to lay out what is known about the torture program, including the participation of health professionals, and urges the Trump administration to launch a criminal investigation to get a full accounting of the crimes committed by the CIA and other government agencies.

Read the executive summary (pdf)
Read the report (pdf)

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