Take Action to End Torture and Hold Health Professionals Accountable

"President Barack Obama has said the detention facility in Guantánamo  Bay will be closed within a year. That's great, but what are WE as the United States of America, the people who kidnapped and tortured these people going to do for them? Just send them home like nothing happened?
 
In the USA if you are sentenced to prison and later on you are found not to be guilty …you are given compensation. Are we going to give compensation to these individuals that were so wrongfully held for so many years?
 
We should. We started this mess and it's time we attempt to help this people move on with their lives.
 
The sad part of this all is the people who are responsible. Former President George Bush and Former Vice President Dick Cheney will never be held accountable for the decisions they made. It's the detainees and the guards like myself that will have to live every day with what they went through, saw, and did while there."

- Spc. Brandon Neeley, former Guantánamo guard


Spc. Brandon Neeley, a former guard at Guantánamo, recently offered a lengthy interview regarding his experiences to a testimonials project at the University of California - Davis.  (
Click here to read excerpts, or the full interview.) His interview vividly exposes the brutal conditions and treatment suffered by men held at Guantánamo in early 2002, yet inhumane conditions persist to the present day. Please join us in urging President Obama and Congress to fully investigate torture and abuse, and to hold accountable those responsible.

Neeley’s testimony included horrifying accounts of abuse by U.S. health professionals – a well-documented yet often unreported facet of the torture and mistreatment of the men held at Guantánamo and other US prisons. 

Despite the health profession's widely recognized duty to do no harm, more physicians around the world participate in torture than treat the millions who survive it.  Sadly, the torture and abuse inflicted on prisoners in Guantánamo, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the U.S.' so-called "war on terror" is no exception.

Current and former prisoners held in U.S. custody report being subjected to forced or unwarranted medical procedures for interrogation and punishment purposes, such as enemas, drugging, IVs, and surgery – even amputation.  Under President Obama’s watch, health personnel and prison guards continue to strap men painfully to 6-point restraint chairs for hours at a time,  forcefully insert thick tubes down their noses, and pump their stomachs full of unwanted liquid, often until they bleed and vomit.

Notoriously, psychologists have participated in devising and recommending torture and abusive interrogation for detainees. Some psychologists reversed tactics that were used to train U.S. soldiers to resist torture by foreign states into ones that could be used to torture prisoners in our own custody.  As members of Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (or "BSCTs"), some mental health professionals have sat in on abusive interrogations, observed prisoners undergoing abusive interrogation, and advised interrogators on how to exploit vulnerabilities, often using medical records to do so.  They may still be doing this today. 

Neeley describes numerous incidents of medical abuse from 2002: he tells of a medic force feeding and then punching a detainee, shortly after that same man had been beaten by a military riot squad for refusing to take nutrition; a medic who was charged with providing physical therapy to a prisoner but instead purposefully caused the prisoner severe pain, and then mocked him as he cried out; a naval physician who used his authority to conduct “cavity searches,” purportedly for security purposes, to forcefully penetrate his patients’ rectums, seemingly with intent to hurt and degrade them; and others who permitted obviously mentally ill men to go without treatment and injure themselves for days at a time.

The change in administration notwithstanding, brutal force feeding and psychological abuse continues at Guantánamo today, and some of our health personnel remain complicit.

 But President Obama's executive order of January 22, 2009 requires "humane treatment" for the men held at Guantánamo, including compliance with the Geneva Conventions and all applicable law, and this includes freedom from medical abuse and torture.

Furthermore, as illustrated by Spc. Neeley's comments, we have a responsibility not only to put an end to medical abuse and torture, but also to hold accountable those responsible and to help restore those harmed. Please write today to your members of Congress and to President Obama and call upon them to:

  • End force feeding, forced drugging, and other forms of medical abuse at Guantánamo
  • Allow detainees at Guantánamo access to independent doctors and other health professionals
  • Disband the use of BSCT teams and prohibit health professionals from participating in interrogations
  • Conduct an independent investigation into the involvement of health professionals in torture and abuse, prosecute those who have committed crimes, and refer to state licensing boards those who have violated their professional codes of conduct.


April 20, 2014

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