New York Times Endorses Need to Investigate "Medically Assisted Torture"

An editorial in today's New York Times echoes Physicians for Human Rights' repeated call over the last half decade: investigate abuse and hold perpetrators accountable.

Responding to the International Committee of the Red Cross report documenting the involvement of medical personnel in torture and abuse of detainees, the Times concludes:

The report underscores the need to have a full-scale investigation into these abusive practices and into who precisely participated in them. Only then will we know whether indictments or, in the case of physicians, the loss of medical licenses, are warranted.

An investigation into torture and abuse is not merely supported by both law and medical ethics, it is an imperative. The legal prohibition against torture, which includes attempt, complicity and participation, imposes the duty to investigate alleged abuse. The ethical principles enshrined in the Declaration of Tokyo, adopted by the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association, prohibits participation of physicians in torture and all forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. This includes providing "knowledge" to "facilitate the practice of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." It also prohibits the physician's presence when any of these practices take place.

Continued inaction by Congress, the President, health professionals and American citizens makes a mockery of the rule of law, human rights and medical ethics. As evidence mounts and calls for accountability go unheeded, the shroud of torture hangs heavy.

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