MF Offers to Send Doctors to Examine Guantanamo Detainees
The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture says it would be ready to send experts to Guantánamo Bay to examine detainees following a call today (Thursday) by the British Medical Association for the UK government to seek 'direct and unfettered access' to those being held.
The call follows a report from the UN Committee Against Torture that some of the interrogation techniques being used at the camp are prohibited by the Convention Against Torture. Earlier this month, three inmates committed suicide.
There are also concerns that US military doctors have been force-feeding hunger striking prisoners in contravention of World Medical Association (WMA) declarations that such action is unethical in the case of prisoners 'capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgement' about the course of action they are following.
The US Supreme Court ruled today that the Bush administration does not have the authority to try terrorism suspects held at Guantánamo by military tribunal. The court ruled that the proceedings violate the Geneva Conventions.
At the same time, the BMA's annual representatives meeting passed a resolution condemning the force-feeding of prisoners under the direct supervision of US doctors, and noted 'with considerable concern' the lack of publicly visible action from the WMA over the role of doctors at the camp. A suggestion that the BMA withdraw from the WMA was deferred for further discussion.
The resolution, however, added that 'any torture of prisoners held in Guantánamo Bay or HMP Belmarsh is inhumane and contrary to the Geneva Convention'.
And it urged the UK Government to seek access to the detainees, who include several former British residents, by an independent team of British doctors with the results of such visits to be made public.
Sherman Carroll, the Medical Foundation's director of public affairs, said: "The Medical Foundation would be keen to be part of any independent medical delegation allowed to visit Guantánamo. Our doctors are among the most experienced in the world in examining torture victims and documenting their treatment and condition.
"Guantánamo is an ongoing disgrace. No nation committed to the rule of law can justify holding people indefinitely without trial. It is time that independent experts were able to verify exactly what has been going on there.
"It is time too that the World Medical Association forced the American medical authorities to wake up to their responsibility to hold their members to account if they are behaving unethically. The American Medical Association was a co-signatory to both WMA declarations that determined that force-feeding was unethical.
"The withdrawal of British doctors from the WMA would send a strong signal about the resentment many doctors around the world feel to the way their profession, and professional standing, is being undermined by the activities of some of those employed by the US military."
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