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For Immediate Release

In Wake of ICRC Report, Health Professionals Must Be Held Accountable for Torture

Cambridge, Mass - 04/07/2009

(Cambridge, MA) The full disclosure of a confidential International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report on CIA treatment of detainees is confirmation of what Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has been alleging for years. Health professionals violated ethical duties by participating in the torture and abuse of detainees in US custody. PHR has long demanded a full investigation into the role health professionals played in detainee treatment. PHR again calls upon health professional associations to support a non-partisan commission of inquiry.

"It is time for the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and others to demand a nonpartisan commission to investigate these crimes," said Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer of PHR. "The associations must sanction any of their membership found to have violated their professional ethics."

"The Bush Administration weaponized medicine by using health professionals to break the bodies and minds of detainees," stated John Bradshaw, PHR's Washington Director. "Congress must act to restore medical ethics by finally authorizing a non-partisan commission to probe these crimes."

PHR helped create the ethical prohibitions against health professional participation in national security interrogations. Consistent with previous PHR findings, the ICRC report concludes that "the interrogation process is contrary to international law and the participation of health personnel in such a process is contrary to international standards of medical ethics." The ICRC report also finds that "their primary purpose appears to have been to serve the interrogation process, and not the patient. In so doing the health personnel have condoned, and participated in ill-treatment."

In a report released last year, Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact, former detainees medically evaluated by PHR reported similar instances of medical complicity in torture. Hafez, an Iraqi detainee who was held at Abu Ghraib, reports that his arm was dislocated during an abusive interrogation. He states that an individual, whom he believed was a doctor, put his arm back in place and told the interrogators to "continue."

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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