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07 July 2005

Defense Department Report, July 7: Detainee Medical Care Appropriate

More than 1,000 medical personnel interviewed on detainee treatment

A senior civilian defense official told reporters at the Pentagon July 7 that the Defense Department does not tolerate the inhumane treatment of individuals who are held in U.S. detention facilities as part of the global War on Terror.

Stephen Jones, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, made this observation about enemy combatants being held in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan following a five-month study of how U.S. military medical professionals performed their duties while in contact with detainees.

After interviewing more than 1,000 physicians, nurses, physicians’ assistants and enlisted personnel, Jones said the vast majority of medical professionals did the right thing.  When inappropriate behavior occurred, he said, changes in policies or practices were made instantly or were referred up the chain of command for change.

Even though the interviews with medical professionals assigned to 180 medical units found some instances of inappropriate behavior, Jones said they “did not represent the overwhelming majority of our military personnel engaged in detainee operations.”

Corrective action was taken, he said, when inappropriate behavior was observed.  This included instances where a stretcher carrying a detainee was put down too roughly or the provision of pain medications was delayed too long.

Jones said the process of holding medical professionals accountable for their actions and improvements in medical practices “is ongoing.”  Military medical personnel have a duty to uphold the humane treatment of detainees, he said, with respect to both their physical and mental health.

Army Lieutenant General Kevin Kiley, who briefed the press with Jones, said the assessment period ran from November 2004 to April and it involved interviews in five countries and 22 states.

Kiley said “the majority of medical personnel interviewed did not observe any abuse, and with few exceptions” they reported any suspected abuse.  When reports were not made up the chain of command, he said, corrective action was taken immediately.

The results of this assessment show that military medical professionals “reported suspected abuse in the overwhelming majority of cases,” according to Kiley.  He also said the assessment did not unearth any cases of possible collusion between medical personnel and the potential abuse of detainees.

Of the 1,000 individuals interviewed (including 192 physicians, 211 nurses and six dentists), Kiley said only 32 expressed any concerns about potential abuse they may have seen, and among the 32, he said, 26 reported it.  In the remaining instances, quick changes were made on the spot, he said.

The 11 psychologists and psychiatrists who acted as consultants to interrogators, Kiley said, “clearly understood that they were not [acting in the capacity of] health care providers, that they were consultants to the interrogators.”  All of them, he said, “voiced a sense of responsibility to ensure the welfare of detainees during the interrogation process.”

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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