Report on Medical Investigations of Iraq/Afghan Prisoner Homicides

Dr. Steven Miles has published a comprehensive analysis of medical investigations of prisoner homicides in Iraq and Afghanistan in Medscape MedGenMed e-journal. The article is available here, free registration required.

This article reviews another human rights issue -- the medical evaluation of cases of which prisoners potentially died of because of mistreatment or under suspicious circumstances.

Sources for the article include:

... government documents, including reports of US Army and US Navy criminal investigations, death certificates, autopsy reports, sworn statements, official correspondence between military personnel, and US Department of Defense policies. To a lesser degree, it cites reports by human rights organizations and well-sourced media reports.

Some of Dr. Miles' findings:

The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology bears primary responsibility for the inadequate investigation of detainees' deaths. There is no evidence that its staff properly and forcefully asserted the need for field commanders to follow Defense Department policies for reporting prisoners' deaths for investigation. In June 2004, in the wake of public concern about unreported deaths of prisoners under torture, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent a memo to field commanders reiterating US Department of Defense policies for reporting and investigating prisoner deaths. fn34 The Institute's death certificates failed to comply with US Army and Geneva Convention obligations.

.... The AFME failed to fulfill its own policy and its Geneva obligation to ensure that death investigations could be used for sentinel public health research to identify torture as a pattern of preventable death. fn 37 This failure was of critical importance between 2002, when human rights organizations began complaining of prisoner abuse, and 2004, when the Abu Ghraib photographs became public. By failing to report statistics on deaths by torture or signs of abusive injuries, it failed to perform its duty to issue an authoritative early warning that something was seriously wrong in the prisons.

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