Hitting The Torturers' Alibis.

Via Daphne Eviatar, a new report from Physicians for Human Rights concludes that the physicians who oversaw the interrogation and torture of suspected terror detainees may have been involved in "human experimentation" and are calling for an investigation:

The Inspector General’s report confirms much of what had been reported about the essential role played by health professionals in designing, deploying, monitoring and legitimizing the program of torture, but also raises disturbing new questions which require further investigation. The possibility that health professionals monitored techniques to assess and improve their effectiveness, constituting possible unethical human experimentation, urgently needs to be thoroughly investigated.

What I find interesting about this development is that the presence of physicians was used by the Office of Legal Counsel in the 2002 memo authorizing the torture of Abu Zubayda as an alibi...namely that the presence of doctors negated the "intent" to cause severe physical or mental suffering. From the 2002 Bybee memo:

To violate the statute, the individual must have the specific intent to inflict pain or suffering. Because specific intent is an element of the offense, the absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture.

[...]

First, the constant presence of personnel with medical training who have the authority to stop the interrogation should it appear it is medically necessary indicates that it is not your intent to cause severe physical pain.

This is absurd--the point of torture is to extract information through suffering, and the physicians were there to ensure that said suffering didn't render the detainee useless by say, killing him. But the PHR report raises another important point--if the doctors were there in part to help help the CIA figure out how to make torture more effective, that certainly contradicts the argument that the doctors being there proved there was no "intent" to cause suffering. The report suggests that the "intent" of having doctors there was to make that suffering more effective in eliciting information. So much for the doctors as alibis.

-- A. Serwer

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