Saturday, 6 February 2016

The World Medical Association Colludes in Israel's Use of Torture

Sir Michael Marmot - President of the WMA - Colluding in Israeli Torture
Letter from Sir Michael Marmiot to IMA Confirming a Refusal to Examine Evidence of Torture
The World Medical Association Supports the Israeli Medical Association’s Endorsement of Torture

Like the CIA’s doctors, who oversaw the physical and psychological torture of detainees,  Israel’s doctors have, for a very long time, been integrally involved in the torture of Palestinian prisoners.  The Israeli Medical Association has been actively complicit in protecting them.  Their response to those who accuse them of a gross dereliction of their duty is to accuse them of ‘lies’.  At no stage has the IMA investigated the involvement of Israeli doctors in the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners.  They routinely refuse to accept the testimony of Palestinians who have been tortured and they are quite explicit about this.

Dr Derek Summerfield and Dr Chris Burns Cox and 69 other doctors wrote to the World Medical Association recently asking them to take up the issue of torture in Israel and the complicity of the IMA.  The correspondence below shows that once again, the WMA have refused to investigate the matter despite copious evidence having been submitted to them.

The only conclusion one can draw is that the WMA is deliberately turning a blind eye to the involvement of Israeli doctors in the torture of detainees, in much the same way as they have been complicit in the involvement of American doctors in CIA torture.

Tony Greenstein

Israeli Medical Association - Covers Up for Torture in Israel
 2 Feb 2016

Dear Sir Michael Marmot

We write as lead signatory and convenor on behalf of 69 other UK medical signatories. Barely 2 weeks ago we submitted to you as WMA President a substantive evidence-based case on the systemic complicity with torture of WMA-member the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) and individual Israeli doctors attached to interrogation units. We received a brief email from you on the 18th January to say "I did receive your letter and have forwarded it on".  We sent the dossier to your UK academic address because of our experiences in the past with the WMA secretariat, who had never responded and had simply shielded the IMA.

We and others observing the WMA on this issue are staggered to see a letter written by you (and attached here for other parties) dated 25 January- just 7 days after your emailed acknowledgement of receipt- to Dr Shimon Samuels, Director for International Relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. In it you appear to offer unconditional exoneration of the IMA. You write that when the WMA has asked the IMA to respond to allegations in the past, "investigations have revealed no wrong doing or mishandling of the cases by the Israeli Medical Association." Naturally, when asked the IMA would say this, which is why we call for a transparent examination by neutral parties. See attachment 2 (part of our submission 2 weeks ago) for an example of an IMA 'investigation', which was no more than a blanket refusal to even consider the testimonies of Palestinian detaineees. 
Israeli Hospital Mt. Scopus
You go on to say to the Wiesenthal Centre that "we have trust that our Israeli colleagues will stand firm on our values and the protection of human rights. They have repeatedly affirmed their commitment to the policies and positions taken by the WMA". The IMA have indeed repeatedly affirmed such things but the evidence says that actual practice is otherwise, and consistently so over many years. You then go on to say that the IMA are against force feeding, which has nothing to do with our case. 
Your letter has been widely quoted on the Internet as a rejection of our case and affirmation of the probity of the IMA. You appear to endorse Dr Zeev Feldman, chairman of the IMA World Fellowship who told a Knesset Science and Technology Committee last week that our charges were "lies". We also note that Dr Feldman misrepresented us as claiming that Israeli doctors carried out "medical torture" (sic), a strategic move no doubt since this conjures up a fantastical and inherently unbelievable image.
A medic looks at blood stain of a Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli undercover forces during a raid at Al-Ahly hospital in the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron) on November 12, 2015. (Reuters)
Your email acknowledgement to us that you had forwarded our dossier to the WMA secretariat appears to make it clear that there has been no examination of the evidence we submitted (much of it from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, an exemplary body) of any kind has taken place. Did you  read the evidence? You make no mention of due process and indeed we would ask you to tell us what the due process is in this situation, given that the WMA is mandated to ensure its members are not themselves in violation of its tenets- in this case the anti-torture Declaration of Tokyo. We are in the era of evidence-based medicine yet the evidence we attached cannot have been examined properly in a few days.  You have instantly accorded the Israeli Medical Association the support and approval of the WMA, and of yourself as its President. This puts the WMA itself in collusion with these practices. We find this extraordinary. We are looking to you as a medical academic of international standing to offer the moral leadership that would change all this.

Israeli Doctors Collude in Torture
 WMA affirmation of the IMA strengthens its will to maintain the policy position (unconditional support for the State in all its actions) they have held for many years; you are endorsing the appalling ethical example the IMA offers individual Israeli doctors posted to interrogation units; you are bolstering the impunity which interrogators enjoy in their treatment of Palestinian detainees.  Physicians of Human Rights-Israel have long said that if Israeli doctors were withdrawn from interrogation units, torture as state policy in Israeli could not continue.  The nearby presence of doctors confers moral and medical legitimacy on what is happening in the interrogation rooms.

A brief reminder of some of the evidence we attach:

In the November 2008 annual report to the UN Committee Against Torture, the UAT Coalition, a coalition of 14 Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations, concluded that "since the Committee last reviewed Israel, the practice of torture and ill-treatment has continued unabated.  The UAT Coalition wishes to inform the Committee that in its opinion the use of torture and ill-treatment by Israeli authorities against Palestinians is both widespread and systematic.  The UAT Coalition has recorded evidence of acts, omissions and complicities by agents of the State at all levels.....until this culture of impunity is addressed this situation is unlikely to improve".

Secondly, in  "Doctoring the Evidence, Abandoning the Victim: the Involvement of Medical Professionals in Torture and Ill-treatment in Israel (2011), the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel/Physicians for Human Rights-Israel conclude that "there are serious doubts that the IMA is willing to enforce these rules: persistently repeated requests by PCATI/PHRI calling the IMA's attention to cases arousing suspicion of doctors' involvement in torture and cruel or degrading treatment, have not been dealt with substantively."   PCATI/PHRI note that the IMA's ethical code contains clauses which do not accord with the fundamental principle of medical ethics, which is that the well-being of the patient should be the doctor's sole concern.  IMA codes require the doctor to respect "the good of society as a whole and its right to protect itself", authorising the doctor to assist the security authorities upon their request, even when this may harm the rights of the patient....  "With these clauses, the IMA enables the needs of the security apparatus to be seen as coming before the ethical duties of doctors".  Detailed case studies follow, outlined by us in our submission.

We ask you please to confirm to us, and to the editors of the BMJ, and Lancet, that you will institute a due process to examine the evidence in a matter of such gravity for the moral reputation of the medical profession, the WMA and indeed yourself.

Yours sincerely
Dr Chris Burns-Cox, lead signatory
Dr Derek Summerfield, convenor.
And 69 other UK doctors.

Subject: Re: our evidence-based submission on collusion of IMA/Israeli drs on torture

 Dear signatories/supporters
see below further submission to WMA President, concerned with transparency of process within WMA.
IMA Response to Accusations of Endorsement of Torture - Note the Refusal to Accept the Evidence of Prisoners Who Have Been Tortured Even Though Torture is Now Accept as Standard Interrogation Procedure by Shin Bet
                                                                                                                                                    26 Jan 2016
Dear Sir Michael Marmot

Thank you for your acknowledgement of receipt of our submission backed by 71 UK doctors (the WMA at no time acknowledged our 2009 submission!). We trust you also received the newly published paper on sexual torture sent a few days later as an addition to the archive of evidence to which we point.

We are writing regarding the matter of due process at the WMA. We are concerned that since the IMA is the accused party, they should not be allowed to take over, manage or divert the due process of examination which the WMA is mandated to institute. We say this because on a previous occasion 4 years ago, when we had eventually got the BMA to raise the issue of Israeli doctors and torture at the WMA, the IMA responded by saying that this was an internal Israeli matter and they would address it when back home. Nothing of course happened. It is scandalous that they were allowed to get away from this. We are concerned to note from an article in the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post of 20 January 2016 (see link below) that Dr Zeev Feldman, stated to be chairman of the IMA World Fellowship, told a Knesset Science and Technology Committee that the evidence against the IMA/Israeli doctors regarding torture was "lies", and that "we are engaged in a dialogue with the WMA......" The UK medical signatories are expecting a transparent process conducted at WMA by parties with no vested interests, parties who owe no loyalty to the IMA and will soberly examine the evidence we submitted, and we look to you as President to ensure this. We would appreciate your reassurance on this count.

Dr Feldman betrays more than he intended, which is the fixed and deeply unethical position the IMA has held for many years on this matter. The evidence he is calling "lies" comes from the Israeli nongovernmental organisation Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI), and the IMA  has been perfectly well aware of the publication and dissemination of “Doctoring the Evidence, Abandoning the Victim” since 2011. It carries rigorously documented and named cases (summarised in our submission) and even the names of some of the Israeli doctors who dealt with these detainees in ways that obviously violate the WMA Declaration of Tokyo. It is an ethically exemplary piece of work: if such work counts as insufficient evidence, then no evidence anywhere in the world could ever count and the international regulation of medical ethics is a dead letter. The IMA will not act on such evidence because their longstanding position is to support and shield Israeli government policy, even when this is torture. Thus their pre-determined position is that documentation proving the use of torture and complicity of doctors and the IMA must be slated from the outset as "lies" (and when originating from an organisation outside Israel- like Amnesty or Defence of the Child International- as ‘anti-semitic’ lies). This has been going on for decades. The IMA condemns itself out of its own mouth.

We are copying this to Hadas Ziv of PHRI, and to the editors of the BMJ and The Lancet.

Yours sincerely
Dr Chris Burns-Cox, lead signatory
Dr Derek Summerfield, convenor
(on behalf of 69 other UK medical signatories).

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