British doctors call for independent scrutiny of Guantanamo Bay detainees

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 21 September 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:617
  1. Caroline White
  1. London

    A group of British doctors has fiercely criticised the Foreign Office for what they term its “shameful silence” on the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, which “reflects the collusion of this country in a war crime,” they say.

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    British doctors have condemned the Foreign Office for failing to send a medical team to visit British residents held at Guantanamo


    In an open letter to the Times (2006 Sep 18, p 18), the 120 signatories condemn the Foreign Office for its failure to send an independent medical team to visit the eight British residents currently held in Guantanamo Bay.

    The letter also criticises the lack of discussion of Guantanamo by either the Foreign Office pro bono medical or legal panels in more than four years.

    The signatories include two members of the Foreign Office pro bono medical panel, as well as representatives from the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture and the Muslim Doctors and Dentists Association.

    At its annual representatives meeting in June, the BMA passed a resolution that the UK government should seek “direct and unfettered access” to those being held, and it condemned the force feeding of prisoners on hunger strike. The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture said that it would be willing to field experts.

    Dr David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist at City Hospital, Birmingham, and one of the letter's signatories, told the BMJ that he had contacted his local MP, Clare Short, about the issue.

    Former foreign secretary Jack Straw, replying in March to inquiries made by Ms Short, said there was “no specific committee” in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office looking at prison conditions of British nationals overseas. “Our consular operation is tasked with ensuring that [their] medical and welfare needs are met and their human rights are respected,” he wrote.


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