Posts Tagged ‘frank donaghue’
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.
In today’s Washington Post, Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon responded to Broken Laws, Broken Lives on behalf of the Pentagon.
A Pentagon spokesman yesterday criticized the report, saying its authors had drawn “sweeping conclusions based upon dubious allegations” of former detainees who had been out of U.S. custody for years.
“The quality of medical care we provide detainees is similar to that which our troops serving in the same locations receive,” said the spokesman, Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon. “We have robust psychological and mental health care available to detainees.”
PHR CEO Frank Donaghue has responded in turn to Navy Cmndr. J.D. Gordon:
PHR’s research was conducted by some of the world’s leading experts on evaluating and documenting torture claims, according to rigorous and internationally accepted clinical standards. In response to PHR’s medical evidence of torture and war crimes, the Pentagon today strangely responded by defending its current standards of medical care. We’re not aware of any international medical standards that include sleep deprivation and isolation, which the US Army Field Manual still authorizes. The Pentagon has not yet responded to the new medical evidence of past crimes, including periodic beatings, sodomy, and electric shocks.
When PHR released Broken Laws, Broken Lives, Frank Donaghue recorded this video suggesting that the US government make a different kind of response to the evidence presented in the new PHR report.
Cambridge, Mass. (PRWEB) June 18, 2008 — Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has published a landmark report documenting medical evidence of torture and ill-treatment inflicted on 11 men detained at US facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay, who were never charged with any crime. The physical and psychological evaluation of the detainees and documentation of the crimes are based on internationally accepted standards for clinical assessment of torture claims. The report also details the severe physical and psychological pain and long-term disability that has resulted from abusive and unlawful US interrogation practices.
“Rigorous clinical evaluations confirm the enormous and enduring toll of agony and anguish inflicted for months by US personnel on eleven men who were detained without any charge or explanation,” stated PHR President Leonard Rubenstein. “Their first-hand accounts, now confirmed by medical and psychological examinations, take us behind the photographs to write a missing chapter of America’s descent into the shameful practice and official policy of systematic torture.”
Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact documents practices used to bring about excruciating pain, terror, humiliation, and shame for months on end. These practices included, but were not limited to:
- Suspensions and other stress positions;
- Routine isolation;
- Sleep deprivation combined with sensory bombardment and temperature extremes;
- Sexual humiliation and forced nakedness;
- Denial of medical care;
- Electric shock;
- Involuntary medication; and
- Threats to their lives and families.
In the foreword to the report, Maj. General Antonio Taguba (USA-Ret.), who led the U.S. Army’s investigation into the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse scandal, wrote: “After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”
“Ending the use of torture, while essential, is not enough. The United States government must make this right. Those responsible for these abuses must help heal the grievous harm inflicted in our name,” said PHR CEO Frank Donaghue. “PHR is calling for full investigation, accountability, an official apology, and reparations, including medical and psychological treatment for the survivors.”