PHR Demands Trans-Atlantic Investigation and International Red Cross Access to All Detainees in US Custody
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) calls for a full trans-Atlantic investigation by Congress and the Parliament of the United Kingdom in the wake of today’s revelation by TIME magazine that the US covertly used Diego Garcia, a British island off the coast of India, as a top secret CIA detention center. Further, PHR demands that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) be given immediate access to all detainees that may still be held at Diego Garcia and other “black” site locations.
“The US and the UK must at last come clean about the scope of extraordinary rendition and secret detention—a violation of American and British law, human rights standards, and the rules and regulations of NATO,” stated Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer of PHR. “Both Congress and Parliament must set the record straight about what happened at Diego Garcia. PHR knows from our twenty-one year history of documenting torture around the world that secret detention opens the floodgates to torture and other gross human rights abuses.”
The disclosure that Diego Garcia held CIA “ghost” detainees, such as Riduan Isamuddin, commonly known as “Hambali”, shows that General Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA, provided false information to senior members of the British Government. Director Hayden assured the Brown Government earlier this year that only two rendition flights had refueled at Diego Garcia. According to TIME, however, senior Bush Administration officials had been previously informed about the existence and use of the facility in highly classified briefings in the White House situation room.
“The Bush Administration’s detainee treatment and interrogation policies have damaged our nation’s reputation as human rights leader,” said Donaghue. “Seven years of secrets whispered in secret rooms must give way to on-the-record testimony and open hearings.”
PHR calls on the House and Senate committees on Intelligence and Armed Services to hold CIA Director Hayden and senior Bush Administration officials accountable. PHR also calls on Parliament to determine what current Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, current Foreign Secretary David Miliband, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, and other members of the Privy Council knew about US detention activities at Diego Garcia and when they knew it.
Since the publication of its landmark report in 2005 documenting the use of torture against detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Break Them Down: Systematic Use of Psychological Torture by US Forces, PHR has been a leading voice in the effort to end the use of abusive interrogation techniques during interrogations of detainees held by the US military and intelligence services. PHR published in June the report Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of US Torture and its Impact, an analysis of medical and psychological evaluations of detainees held at US detention facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.,
From 9:30-11:00 a.m. today, Steve Clemons from the Washington Note will interview New Yorker correspondent Jane Mayer at the New America Foundation, about her new book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals. You can watch the interview LIVE in this Ustream viewer.
UPDATE: Now that the interview is over, an archived version is available on YouTube. We’ve swapped the archived version into this post to allow our readers ongoing access.
The audio of the interview, and some additional information, are available at the New America Foundation website.
In this morning’s New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof responds to Major General Antonio Taguba’s call for accountability in the Preface to Broken Laws, Broken Lives.
When a distinguished American military commander accuses the United States of committing war crimes in its handling of detainees, you know that we need a new way forward.
“There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes,” Antonio Taguba, the retired major general who investigated abuses in Iraq, declares in a powerful new report on American torture from Physicians for Human Rights. “The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”
The first step of accountability isn’t prosecutions. Rather, we need a national Truth Commission to lead a process of soul searching and national cleansing.
That was what South Africa did after apartheid, with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and it is what the United States did with the Kerner Commission on race and the 1980s commission that examined the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Today, we need a similar Truth Commission, with subpoena power, to investigate the abuses in the aftermath of 9/11.
Kristof lists some of the reasons why a truth commission is called for:
It’s a national disgrace that more than 100 inmates have died in American custody in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo. After two Afghan inmates were beaten to death by American soldiers, the American military investigator found that one of the men’s legs had been “pulpified.”
Moreover, many of the people we tortured were innocent: the administration was as incompetent as it was immoral. The McClatchy newspaper group has just published a devastating series on torture and other abuses, and it quotes Thomas White, the former Army secretary, as saying that it was clear from the moment Guantánamo opened that one-third of the inmates didn’t belong there.
McClatchy says that one inmate, Mohammed Akhtiar, was known as pro-American to everybody but the American soldiers who battered him. Some of his militant fellow inmates spit on him, beat him and called him “infidel,” all because of his anti-Taliban record.
Kristof mentions in passing the fundamental problem:
[T]he US military taught interrogation techniques borrowed verbatim from records of Chinese methods used to break American prisoners in the Korean War — even though we knew that these torture techniques produced false confessions.
The SERE program, through which such techniques were adapted and disseminated as a matter of policy, fostered an environment in which torture appears to have become standard operating procedure. As PHR President Len Rubenstein has said, “once torture starts it can’t be contained.” Despite the many earlier revelations, Broken Laws, Broken Lives provides medical evidence of such abuses. With only 11 former detainees as the subjects, the report may only be scratching the surface.
The truth must be told, the criminals prosecuted and, as PHR CEO Frank Donaghue emphasizes, reparations to the victims must be made, including compensation and medical and psycho-social services.
Sondra Crosby, MD, was another of the clinical evaluators for Broken Laws, Broken Lives. She is an internist and Co-Director of the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights at Boston Medical Center and is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Crosby’s clinical practice focuses on care of asylum seekers, asylees and refugees, and she has written over 200 affidavits documenting medical and psychological sequelae of torture.
On this July 4, as we celebrate the freedoms that have long brought refugees and asylum seekers to our shores, it is all the more poignant to hear Dr. Crosby say:
it is tragic and ironic that these abuses were perpetrated by the United States, the very place to which many of my patients come to seek refuge from torture.