CIA black sites: offshore interrogation centres and an increasingly aggressive CIA

With details of the newly published report by the US Senate coming out, this 4 year investigation is shining light on some of the questionable interrogation techniques and the medical staff involved in the “safe keeping” of the detainees of the US Government.

Whilst much of the attention has been focused on the legality and usefulness of the interrogation techniques, many within the medical community have expressed concerns over the role of medical personnel in these interrogation sites.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) are a Nobel Peace Prize winning organisation that investigate and help uncover abuses around the world. They have called for an in depth investigation into the role played by the medical staff employed within the various US governmental departments that use interrogative techniques.

In the original version of the Hippocratic Oath physicians swore to work at the “convenience and advantage of the patient; and I will willingly refrain from doing any injury or wrong from falsehood”. Whilst the Hippocratic Oath is not legally binding, it is a guide and ethical convention that most physicians consider extremely important. This empathetic and caring responsibility seems not to sit well with the roles played by physicians in the CIA ‘black sites’ or even in Guantanamo Bay. This role is quite simple; ensure that the detainee does not die.

There have been several key personalities that have come to light as a result of the investigation, James Elmer Mitchell being one. Mitchell is a former US Air Force psychologist, where he trained interrogators in the SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) school. Along with former USAF psychologist Bruce Jessum, he was paid a reported $80 million to design and implement an interrogation programme aimed at detained suspected terrorists.

From what has been leaked of the report so far, it seems that physical and mental harm are not necessarily negatively viewed. Reports of 180 hours of sleep deprivation and hours of stress positions involving standing on broken or damaged lower limbs are emerging.

Dr Mitchell has been reported as saying: “I am just a guy who got asked to do something for his country by people at the highest level of government, and I did the best that I could.”

Appealing to patriotism is a popular move in avoidance tactics, but with the amount of noise coming from the medical community, this looks to be an issue that won’t blow over quickly.

Human trafficking: 36 million victims

In 2014, the Global Slavery Index (GSI) found that worldwide there are nearly 36 million victims of human trafficking. This practice, which is especially prevalent in Asia, shows no signs of disappearing and a solution to the problem is far from clear.

South Africa
At the end of November, South African businessman Lloyd Mabuza was found guilty of imprisoning and raping five girls aged between 10 and 16. For his crime the punishment was 8 life sentences, handed down by Magistrate Andre Lambrecht. His accomplice, Violet Chauke, was found guilty of Human Trafficking for sexual purposes and handed to home affairs for deportation back to Mozambique. The shocking details of the case, where children were left to live in squalor, threatened, and repeatedly raped has shocked South Africa and has the potential to make a severe impact worldwide.

Trafficking in Africa
The GSI report found that the African continent is awash with countries that are home to human trafficking and modern slavery. Of the countries on the continent, South Africa was considered to be one of those where the practice is less common. Because of its ties with Europe, and relative wealth in sub-Saharan Africa, the news that there is human trafficking going on in South Africa will impact the international community, and maybe even elicit a response.

Global law
In Western Europe and the USA the laws on Human Trafficking are strict and carry severe penalties. Nonetheless, the practice still goes on, with trafficking of girls for sexual exploitation an issue that is in and out of the press regularly. This begs the question, are we doing enough to fight this criminal practice?

Bringing down the traffickers
Admittedly, because the occurrence of human trafficking is not as common in the UK, we may find it easy to overlook what is happening elsewhere. Is this attitude cowardly, or should we watch our country first? As a country carrying such immense influence, is it our duty to work with poorer countries to fight the traffickers and criminals who still enslave others?

The next steps
The arguments for ignoring the problem are weak, with the only clear reason being the financial implications of undertaking such a mammoth task. What are the options? More support for victims and potential victims? Clamping down on perpetrators? Relieving the pressure on smaller governments by introducing international tribunals for repeat offenders? The global community is suffering at the hands of those who exploit the weak and underprivileged, and there must be something we can do to fight it.