"Make him as uncomfortable as possible. Work him as hard as possible."
A month earlier, Jawad had been placed in isolation following the recommendations of a psychologist from a Behavioral Science Consultation Team in Guantanamo. A few weeks later, he had been moved to a cell block where no one spoke Pashto -- the only language Jawad knew when he arrived to the island -- in order to further enhance his feeling of loneliness. "He appears to be rather frightened, and it looks as if he could break easily if he were isolated from his support network and made to rely solely on the interrogator," the Army psychologist wrote in a leaked report intended for Guantanamo interrogators. "Make him as uncomfortable as possible. Work him as hard as possible," she continued.
Three days before Christmas 2003, Jawad's "comfort items" -- his mat, a copy of the Quran, among others -- were removed from his cell as a form of punishment for trying to talk to other detainees in the camp, according to court documents. On December 25, reaching a breaking point, he repeatedly slammed his head against the metal objects of his enclosure.
The incident was recorded in the official camp log of that day under the description "attempted self-harm." In March 2004, he tried to communicate with the inmates from his block, and he was punished once again with the loss of his comfort items. The prison, he would later tell his lead attorney, David Frakt, was "like a tomb, like a graveyard."
At least since Nuremberg, scrutiny over the involvement of health professionals with torture has been a critical subject in every war. (The word "torture," of course, is highly charged and its definition is subject to debate. For the purpose of this article, the word refers to the definition found in the United Nations Convention Against Torture, a document ratified by the United States.)
In the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ever since leaked reports and testimonies -- including that of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, currently on trial in Guantanamo -- were published in 2004, the issue has attracted the attention of the media, health organizations, and political activists. Psychologists and doctors have clashed with their peers and with the Department of Defense over the role that health professionals should play in interrogations, given their oath to "do no harm." The Senate Judiciary Committee and numerous military investigations have confirmed that physicians and clinicians played a significant role during so-called enhanced interrogations, either through reverse engineering of the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program, or through monitoring and assisting in CIA black sites and prisons like Bagram and Guantanamo.
Recently, that conflict reached politicians in Albany, New York. This year, State Senator Thomas Duane and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried sponsored a unique piece of legislation that establishes sanctions (including license removal) for state-licensed health professionals who participate in torture or improper treatment of prisoners.
"The bill presents an opportunity to fill a gap in state law on the regulation of health professionals that desperately needs to be filled," Leonard Rubenstein, the former president of Physicians for Human Rights -- an independent organization that fights human rights violations all around the world -- said in a public forum. "Almost everyone agrees that the idea that health professionals can participate in abuse of detainees and prisoners is indefensible. If that is the case, it is also indefensible to exclude such acts from state law on licensing and regulation of health professionals."
The Duane-Gottfried bill was the latest in a series of yet-unsuccessful efforts carried out by committed clinicians and doctors to establish a lasting impediment to torture, and to prevent -- nearly nine years after the fact -- events similar to those experienced by Jawad.
In 2004, Steven Reisner, a psychologist and anti-torture advocate who became one of the Gottfried bill's most outspoken advocates, read a New York Times article about a leaked International Committee of the Red Cross report. "There were two main lines to that document," he said last winter referring to the report. "First, that what was happening was tantamount to torture. And second, that health professionals were overseeing interrogations in violation of their ethics."
"To some extent, the issue is put in very blunt terms, 'Whose side are you on? The terrorists' or Gottfried's?"
"Doctors of the Dark Side" exposes the scandal behind the torture scandal -- how psychologists and physicians devised, supervised and covered up the torture of detainees in US controlled military prisons. Producer/Director Martha Davis (Interrogation Psychologists) spent four years investigating the controversy. The feature-length documentary is written by Oscar-winner Mark Jonathan Harris (Into the Arms of Strangers) and shot in HD by award-winning director of photography Lisa Rinzler (Pollock). The stories of four detainees and the doctors involved in their torture reveal the terrible cost of putting doctors virtually in charge of detainee interrogations.
On the blog
- US under fire for running 'little Gitmos' By Paul Adams BBC News, August 2011 New HRW report on torture under the Bush Administration July, 2011
- The story behind the " detainee 001" story. John Walker Lindh´s dad piece in The Guardian July, 2011
#publichealth #medicalneutrality Call 4 federal probe of @APA collaboration w/ #CIA #torture program https://secure3.convio.net/phr/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=426@P4HR … #APA #impunity October 7th, 2014 #impunity Murat Kurnaz: ‘It Is Time to Prosecute Those Responsible for My #Torture’ http://www.thenation.com/article/190433/former-gitmo-detainee-it-time-prosecute-those-responsible-my-torture … @thenation v @lalifigueras #Gitmo November 13th 2014 #impunity We crossed the line on #torture, #US admits http://thetim.es/1v4Q4aW @AP @thetimes v @baldaufji November 14th 2014 #medicalneutrality #US' @APA to Conduct an Independent Review Into its Role in #CIA #Torture Program http://owl.li/EhStb @P4HR November 15, 2014
- Web page of the Bellevue/NYU program for survivors of torture
- Miles SH; Medical investigations of homicides of prisoners of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Medscape General Medicine July 5, 2005;7(3)
- USA: remedy and accountability still absent October 2008 Amnesty International Report on the tortures endured by Mr. Mohammed Jawad AI Index AMR 51/109/2008
- Ethics abandoned: medical professionalism and detainee abuse in the war on terror. Task Force report funded by IMAP/OSF November 20013