Torture in Israel and Physicians´ Involvement in Torture
A Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) Report, 30 July 2009
A new position paper by PHR-Israel expresses our opinion on torture in Israel and physicians involvement in its use. The paper briefly describes the background of PHR-Israel’s activism on the issue, emphasizing our struggle to change the position of the medical establishment in Israel and our ongoing efforts to engage the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) in the struggle against torture.
To the members and volunteers of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel
Over the past year, PHR-Israel has held extensive correspondence with the Ministry of Health and the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) on the subject of the roles and responsibilities of doctors regarding the interrogation of detainees in general and interrogations involving torture in particular. As will be made clear in the attached Position Paper, PHR-Israel calls for the removal of doctors from facilities in which torture is employed, in order to protect them from breaches of medical ethics, and seeks to increase the awareness of medical communities regarding this issue. As detailed in the Position Paper, the leadership of the medical community in Israel did not in the past take a clear enough stand against torture, and only a ruling by the High Court of Justice provided a clear prohibition on torture. Our current correspondence with IMA and the Ministry of Health suggests that the medical leadership in Israel is still not acting in a determined way against torture, as required by the principles of medical ethics. The Position Paper aims to provide a response to the majority of questions that may arise on this issue, such as: Why are doctors obliged to follow the rules of medical ethics? What are we demanding of IMA and the Ministry of Health (and what is their position on this issue)? and What is the role of international bodies in this struggle?. Doctors are in danger of transgressing their ethical responsibilities, often because of they lack awareness of the issues at hand. For this reason, PHR-Israel has published a short Handbook explaining the ethical responsibilities of doctors in such cases, and detailing the most common injuries of victims of torture and/or violence, in order to improve the chances that when a doctor encounters a victim of torture, he or she will identify the evidence and will be able to provide the victim with assistance and protection.
We appeal to you, members and volunteers of our organization, to play an active part in the struggle against torture and against the involvement of doctors in torture. We ask all members and volunteers of PHR-Israel to act for change in Israel in all matters related to torture, and to help us by distributing the Handbook and the Position Paper among your colleagues in the medical community. Only your public support can help those doctors who are working within systems with high risk for dual loyalty. We believe that raising awareness of this issue is an essential stage in the struggle against torture in Israel.
Please distribute this email as widely as possible.