Sunday, September 6, 2009

Those Nazi doctor comparisons are compelling

Read for yourself:
"CIA doctors face human experimentation claims":

[Physicians for Human Rights] says health professionals participated at every stage in the development, implementation and legal justification of what it calls the CIA's secret "torture programme".

The American Medical Association, the largest body of physicians in the US, said it was in open dialogue with the Obama administration and other government agencies over the role of doctors. "The participation of physicians in torture and interrogation is a violation of core ethical values," it said.

The most incendiary accusation of PHR's latest report, Aiding Torture, is that doctors actively monitored the CIA's interrogation techniques with a view to determining their effectiveness, using detainees as human subjects without their consent. The report concludes that such data gathering was "a practice that approaches unlawful experimentation".

Human experimentation without consent has been prohibited in any setting since 1947, when the Nuremberg Code, which resulted from the prosecution of Nazi doctors, set down 10 sacrosanct principles. The code states that voluntary consent of subjects is essential and that all unnecessary physical and mental suffering should be avoided.

The Geneva conventions also ban medical experiments on prisoners and prisoners of war, which they describe as "grave breaches". Under CIA guidelines, doctors and psychologists were required to be present during the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques on detainees.

In April, a leaked report from the International Committee of the Red Cross found that medical staff employed by the CIA had been present during waterboarding, and had even used what appeared to be a pulse oxymeter, placed on the prisoner's finger to monitor his oxygen saturation during the procedure. The Red Cross condemned such activities as a "gross breach of medical ethics". PHR has based its accusation of possible experimentation on the 2004 report of the CIA's own inspector general into the agency's interrogation methods, which was finally published two weeks ago after pressure from the courts.

If the ICRC, AMA and PHR are all talking about gross violations of medical ethics, verging on contravening the Geneva Conventions and being actual war crimes, then that's serious, right?

But by the terms of Holder's remit to his special prosecutor, all these CIA-employed medical staff are off the hook. How does that work?

Simple: as long as the nation committing these acts is in charge of the investigations, it will do whatever is necessary to protect its leadership in particular from facing any possible repercussions, including letting medical personnel under CIA employ go unpunished. It would really take something dramatic like the US experiencing military defeat on the scale that Germany did in WWII before we actually see any serious investigations and prosecutions with regard to gross human rights abuses that violate international law. I just don't see that happening for the foreseeable future.

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