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American Forces Press Service

Military Medics Saw Few Signs of Detainee Abuse

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 8, 2005 Military medics saw few signs of detainee abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and when they did see such signs they generally reported them, according to a recently completed Army Medical Department review.

In a Pentagon briefing July 7, Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Kevin Kiley, the service's surgeon general, said the five-month review found that the majority of medical personnel never saw signs of abuse and that most who did reported it.

The review team also found that in the earliest days of detainee operations, policies for caring for detainees were inadequate and medical recordkeeping was "inconsistent." Still, he added, "medical care received by detainees was good."

To address and fix shortfalls in guidance and recordkeeping, policies have been codified and training programs begun for all military medical personnel. "Military medical training now includes detainee medical operations, and it's incorporated into our medical officer and enlisted training and medical pre-command courses," Kiley said.

Further, new guidance issued to the military services in June includes tight restrictions on access to detainee medical records and places responsibility and accountability for release of medical records squarely on the shoulders of the unit commander, who must approve such a release.

Kiley said he directed an assessment of detainee medical operations when he saw that myriad other investigations into detainee abuse didn't specifically look into medical care the detainees received and the actions of military medical professionals in dealing with detainees.

A team of six officers, led by Army Maj. Gen. Lester Martinez-Lopez, who retired in April as commanding general of U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick, Md., interviewed more than 1,000 medical personnel in at least 180 units in five countries and 22 states between November 2004 and April 2005.

The team surveyed nearly 200 students in the Medical Officer Basic Course and enlisted medics and trainers at deploying installations, and reviewed "all previous detainee assessment and investigative reports," Kiley said.

The team also looked at allegations reported in the media that healthcare providers assisted in abusive interrogations. Kiley said there is no evidence that ever happened.

He explained that there is "a firewall" between healthcare providers -- and the medical records they keep -- and the interrogation teams. Some interrogation teams did consult with psychological experts, called behavioral science consultation teams, but the medical professionals on these teams in all cases are separate from the medical professionals who care for detainees.

"There was nothing in the assessment that would lead me to think" that medical professionals in any capacity participated in or supported aggressive or abusive interrogations, Kiley said.

"The assessment results demonstrate that the nation can be proud of our military medical professionals," Kiley said. "We have a dedicated team of them working every day to provide quality health care for each patient they treat, whether a U.S. servicemember or coalition troop or detainee."

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