Do No Harm? Gitmo Medics Violated Ethics

Medical professionals who monitored CIA interrogations at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility violated medical ethics, the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a report disclosed Monday.

The 2007 report, based on interviews with 14 "high value detainees" who were sent to Guantanamo in September 2006, said the health personnel monitored detainees as they were subjected to techniques such as waterboarding - which simulates drowning - and prolonged stress positions.

In some cases, the Red Cross reported, medical staff recommended stopping the treatment; in others they "recommended its continuation, but with adjustments."

One detainee told the Red Cross "that a health person threatened that medical care would be conditional upon cooperation with the interrogators."

The report said the health personnel's "primary purpose appears to have been to serve the interrogation process, and not the patient."

"The interrogation process is contrary to international law," the Red Cross said, "and the participation in such a process is contrary to international standards of medical ethics."

The confidential 43-page report was published Monday on the Web site of The New York Review of Books.

Journalist Mark Danner, who obtained the report, revealed some of its findings last month in an article in the Review. [See CBS News: "Red Cross: Torture Committed At CIA Sites" (3/16/09)]

An excerpt:

"For certain methods, notably suffocation by water, the health personnel were allegedly directly participating in the infliction of the ill-treatment. In one case, it was alleged that health personnel actively monitored a detainee's oxygen saturation using what, from the description of the detainee of a device placed over the finger, appeared to be a pulse oxymeter. For example, Mr. Khaled Shaik Mohammed alleged that on several occasions the suffocation method was stopped on the intervention of a health person who was present in the room each time this procedure was used."
The neutral, Swiss-based ICRC is designated by the Geneva Conventions on warfare to visit prisoners of war and other people detained by an occupying power, to ensure countries respect their obligations under the 1949 accords. The ICRC was granted private access by the Bush administration to the 14 prisoners after they were moved from secret interrogation sites and prisons to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in 2006.

The report was written shortly after then-President George W. Bush publicly declared that the United States does not and had not tortured detainees at secret CIA prisons known as "black sites."

The Obama administration has ordered the sites closed and has restricted the CIA to using only those interrogation methods approved for use by the U.S. military until a complete review of the program is conducted.

For more info:

  • Red Cross report: ICRC Report on the Treatment Of Fourteen "High Value Detainees" in CIA Custody ("Strictly Confidential," dated February 2007)