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U.S. Department of Defense Considers New Retaliation Against Guantánamo Navy Nurse

Disclosure Occurs at Same Time Nurse Receives Ethics Award

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today denounced new efforts by the military to revoke the security clearance of a U.S. Navy nurse, calling it backdoor retaliation for his refusal to force-feed Guantánamo detainees on hunger strike. PHR said the nurse – who was honored today with an ethics award – should be commended rather than punished, and reiterated its call for President Obama to end force-feeding and ensure a policy of ethical recusal for all military health professionals.

“The military’s latest action against the nurse is backdoor retaliation for refusing to take part in an unethical and criminal activity,” said Dr. Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s medical director. “Even as we speak, the American Nurses Association is honoring him with an ethics award for refusing to force-feed detainees. It is extraordinary that the military would punish the nurse for conduct that his profession recognizes as exemplary ethical behavior.”

For nearly a year, the nurse faced possible discharge from the U.S. Navy and denial of retirement and veterans benefits for refusing to force-feed Guantánamo detainees. In May, the Navy decided not to discharge him, but the Miami Herald has reported that the U.S. Department of Defense is now considering revoking his security clearance, which could again put him at risk of discharge and loss of benefits.

This new disclosure comes the same week that the American Nurses Association (ANA) honored the nurse with its Year of Ethics award for upholding the highest standards of professional ethics in refusing to force-feed. PHR said the ANA’s public commendation of the nurse at its annual leadership meeting confirms that the nursing profession views him as having done the right thing.

Force-feeding at Guantánamo is done without medical necessity or benefit, violates principles of informed consent, and inflicts severe physical and psychological harm on detainees. It is a form of ill- treatment that, in some cases, may constitute torture. In March, the Defense Health Board, a federal advisory group to the Pentagon, recommended that military medical personnel should be recused from procedures that violate professional ethics.

Earlier this month, the New York Times leaked a damning new report confirming that the American Psychological Association colluded with the CIA and military in support of the U.S. torture program. PHR said it is time for the U.S. government to stop using health professionals in abusive and unethical practices and punishing those who refuse to betray the most basic medical principle – to do no harm.

PHR reiterated its call for President Obama to end force-feeding immediately, to institute policies consistent with the WMA’s Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers, and to ensure a policy of ethical recusal for all military health professionals.

PHR also called for the Obama administration to disclose the number of detainees being force-fed at Guantánamo and release force-feeding videotapes of former detainee Abu Wa'el Dhiab, as ordered by a federal judge.

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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Kevin Short

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