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PHR Decries Obama Administration's Double Standard on Illegal Human Experimentation

1946 Guatemala Case and Alleged CIA Experimentation on Black Site Detainees Both Deserve Equal Justice

For Immediate Release

Cambridge, MA—In the wake of revelations about America’sexperimentation on unwilling human subjects in Guatemala in 1946, Physiciansfor Human Rights (PHR) calls on President Obama to equally investigate credibleevidence of illegal human subject research on detainees in CIA custody duringthe Bush administration.

"What was done to700 Guatemalans 64 years ago without their consent is appalling,” saidPhysicians for Human Rights CEO Frank Donaghue. "But President Obama’sapologies for the Guatemala case ring hollow when the White House refuses toinvestigate similar crimes that allegedly occurred in the past decade. Thecredible evidence of illegal human experiments by the CIA on black sitedetainees deserves equal attention and justice.”

PHR’s June 2010report, Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program, was the firstpeer-reviewed analysis of evidence indicating that the Bush administrationallegedly conducted illegal human research and experimentation on prisoners in US custody.The research was apparently used to insulate interrogators from potentialprosecution and to standardize the use of torture.

"The conduct ofhealth professionals in both cases—Guatemala and the CIA black sites—makes amockery of bedrock principles of medical ethics and the law,” stated ScottAllen, MD, lead medical author of the PHR report. "Human subject researchprotections mean nothing if they don’t apply to all people all of thetime—regardless of politics.”

CIA physiciansand psychologists collected and analyzed data on the physical and psychologicalimpact of the "enhanced” interrogation tactics, analysis which became the basisof Department of Justice memos justifying the torture program. This allegedprogram of illegal human subject experimentation violates medical ethics,federal law, and international research standards, including the Nuremberg Codeand the Common Rule. These practices could, in some cases, constitute warcrimes and crimes against humanity.

"While theproposed federal commission on the abuses in Guatemala is welcome, the Americanpeople must also learn the truth about what was done in our name over the pastdecade to detainees in CIA custody,” said Nathaniel Raymond, Director of PHR’sCampaign Against Torture and lead author of the PHR report. "The Departments ofJustice and Health and Human Services must investigate these credibleallegations of human experimentation on detainees by the CIA with the samemandate as the Guatemala case.”

PHR calls onPresident Obama, working with Congress, to appoint a federal commission toinvestigate what American physicians and psychologists did to people subjectedto torture in US custody. John Durham, the Department of Justice prosecutor taskedwith investigating the destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes as well asinterrogations that went beyond what was authorized by the Department ofJustice memos, should also be given a clear mandate to probe allegations ofillegal research at the black sites, Guantanamo and elsewhere.


In response to the systematic infliction of psychological andphysical torture by US forces, PHR's Campaign Against Torture seeks to restorethe US commitment against torture, to ensure humane treatment of detainees, andto protect US health personnel from complicity in mistreatment and harm.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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