Doctors‘ human rights organisation calls for torture doctors to be arrested when they travel abroad.
Doctors have historically long collaborated in the torture of prisoners. Evidence of medical involvement in the torture of US detainees during the so called war on terror has been convincingly reported since coercive interrogation teams containing doctors were found at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. A leaked ICRC report on Guantanamo Bay alleges the sharing of confidential medical information with interrogators.
“Torture is the antithesis of ethical medical care“, declared Dr Peter Hall, chair of Doctors for Human Rights. “Doctors who are complicit are not only violating international medical ethical codes but are joining a select band who are feared and loathed in equal measure”
Since 1997 the World Medical Association has required national medical organisations to report allegations of doctors‘ participation to the authorities, but Governments on whose watch torture takes place, rarely prosecute those whose actions they might have sponsored.
“The UN Convention against Torture is a form of universal jurisdiction“ said Dr Hall. “Every one of the 139 states that have ratified the Convention is supposed to arrest and try perpetrators who visit their country - even if the torture took place elsewhere.” In 1998 the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in the UK and faced extradition to Spain on charges of torture until assessed as having dementia. This year the British Attorney General successfully prosecuted a former Afghan warlord living in London, using video-linked witness participation in the court from a specially prepared room in the British Embassy in Kabul.
Writing in the medical journal the Lancet last week, Dr Hall called upon the World Medical Association General Assembly, taking place between Oct 12th–15th in Chile, to pass a resolution requiring national medical organisations to cooperate internationally over identifying doctors against whom exists prima facie evidence of complicity, to facilitate their prosecution abroad. Amnesty International calculates 70,000 detainees have been held outside the USA. “Each victim is entitled to restorative justice, an essential part of which entails seeing the perpetrators punished”, Dr Hall said.