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Last Updated: Friday, 7 September 2007, 23:16 GMT 00:16 UK
Guantanamo medics 'fail patients'
A detainee, left, talks with a guard through a fence at Guantanamo Bay (file photo)
Most prisoners at Guantanamo have not been charged
US military doctors have been accused of turning a blind eye to abuse at Guantanamo Bay prison camp, in a letter published in a British medical journal.

The letter in The Lancet focused on accusations of force-feeding of hunger strikers at the prison camp in Cuba.

It also drew parallels between the doctors at Guantanamo and South African doctors involved in the treatment of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko.

Mr Biko died 30 years ago while being detained by security police.

Fraudulent record keeping

Initially it was suggested that Mr Biko died of a hunger strike but an inquest later heard he died of head injuries sustained during a police interrogation.

It was found that the two doctors responsible for treating Mr Biko had provided inadequate care and falsified medical records.

The letter in The Lancet noted that no US medical worker had been charged with any serious offence but that there were "numerous instances documented including fraudulent record keeping on detainees who have died as a result of failed interrogations".

The letter alleges that the failure of the US regulatory authorities to investigate such instances is damaging the reputation of US military medicine.

"The attitude of the US medical establishment appears to be one of 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil'", it said.

Four prisoners have died in custody so far in Guantanamo Bay.

'Form of torture'

The UN Human Rights Commission has said that it regards force-feeding at Guantanamo - where detainees are strapped to chairs for hours and fed through tubes - as a form of torture.

Dr David Nicholl, consultant neurologist at Birmingham City Hospital in the UK, co-ordinated The Lancet letter on behalf of 206 signatories from 16 countries, including Britain, the US and South Africa.

The letter is highly critical of inaction by the medical boards of California and Georgia which are responsible for regulating the former hospital commander at Guantanamo, John Edmondson.

Mr Edmondson is alleged to have started the practise of force-feeding at the prison camp when serious hunger strikes began in 2005.

About 340 detainees are being held in Guantanamo on suspicion of links to terrorism. Many have been there several years, but most have not been charged.

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