U professor investigates U.S.-led torture

He published a book regarding treatment at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

Kathryn Nelson

The oath of medical professionals is to protect patients; yet the recent publication of a University professor paints a different picture of medical ethics in the war on terror.

Professor of medicine and bioethics Steven Miles published a book last year that highlights the ethical responsibilities of medical personnel while treating detainees in U.S. custody. And he’ll discuss medical ethics and torture at the Humphrey Institute today.

“Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror” is the product of 35,000 government documents detailing medical procedures, including torture and mistreatment in detainment centers such as Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Miles, who has an extensive background in medical ethics and treatment abroad, became interested in U.S.-led torture initiatives after graphic photos of naked Abu Ghraib detainees surfaced in 2004.

where to go

torture, war and medical ethics
what: A discussion on medical ethics
when: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. today
where: Cowles Auditorium, Hubert H. Humphrey Center

“The first question that came to my mind was: Where were the (doctors)?” Miles said.

Every prisoner-of-war camp has a doctor, he said, so why hadn’t they blown the whistle and reported the mistreatment?

International law, such as the Geneva Conventions, protects the rights of captured combatants from all acts of violence while being held by the opposing party.

After researching declassified documents from U.S. detainment centers, Miles said he discovered that medical professionals were “roped in” the system of torture.

Two aspects of his findings included the falsification of inmates’ death certificates and the development of interrogation procedures by medical personnel.

The suppression of these activities prevented early warning signs of torture from surfacing, Miles said.

Miles documents the experience of one Guantanamo Bay detainee, Mohammed al-Qahtani, who the U.S. Department of Defense said is the proposed 20th hijacker in the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.

The United States detained al-Qahtani on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan and sent him to a detainment camp in February 2002, a government press release stated.

In the essay “Medical Ethics and the Interrogation of Guantanamo 063,” Miles said al-Qahtani was exposed to loud music, sleep deprivation, forced insertion of intravenous fluid and derogatory actions against the Islamic religion.

Miles cited an 83-page interrogation log and an Army investigation into complaints of mistreatment at Guantanamo Bay.

The Department of Defense acknowledged the detainment of al-Qahtani, also referred to as Mohamed al Kahtani, and said the actions taken against him were justified and lawful due to the security issues of the United States post-Sept. 11.

Miles said the department also dismissed his book but was unable to find any factual errors.

“By using the government’s own documents, it’s very hard for them to reject the material,” he said.

Miles said he will also be adding these documents to the University’s Human Rights Center library.

Co-director of the center David Weissbrodt said he believes the materials will be a perfect fit at the library.

The new collection will include detainees’ death certificates, autopsy reports, medical records, investigations and polices regarding medical personnel, Weissbrodt said.

This will allow the public to view the documents Miles used in his book, he said.

“If there’s a need for further proof for the torture and ill-treatment that has occurred in the last several years, Steve’s material will provide that proof,” Weissbrodt said.

The Department of Defense did not return phone calls from The Minnesota Daily.