Possible Violations of the Geneva Conventions

Only the most ruthless and vile nation would violate the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war, right? If that’s the case then we can likely include the United States on the list of ruthless and vile nations:

Prisoners inside the U.S. military’s detention center at Guantanamo Bay were forcibly given “mind altering drugs,” including being injected with a powerful anti-psychotic sedative used in psychiatric hospitals. Prisoners were often not told what medications they received, and were tricked into believing routine flu shots were truth serums. It’s a serious violation of medical ethics, made worse by the fact that the military continued to interrogate prisoners while they were doped on psychoactive chemicals.

That’s according to a recently declassified report (.pdf) from the Pentagon’s inspector general, obtained by Truthout after a Freedom of Information Act Request. In it, the inspector general concludes that “certain detainees, diagnosed as having serious mental health conditions being treated with psychoactive medications on a continuing basis, were interrogated.” The report does not conclude, though, that anti-psychotic drugs were used specifically for interrogation purposes.

The claim that the drugs were being administered to treat “mental health conditions” is likely nothing more than a mechanism to get around the Geneva Conventions. One thing the Geneva Conventions prohibit is the use of drugs to interrogate prisoners [PDF]:

The essence of coercion is the compulsion of a person by a superior force, often a government, to do or refrain from doing something involuntarily. The intentional application of an unlawful force that robs a person of free will is coercive. However, circumstances that cause a person to reevaluate a course of action, even if deception is instrumental, may arguably be non-coercive pressure. Under the interpretation set forth in FM 34-52, “physical or mental torture and coercion revolve around the elimination of the source’s free will.”46 These activities, along with “brainwashing,” are not authorized, it explains, but are not to be confused with the psychological techniques and ruses presented in the manual. FM 34-52 includes in the definition of mental coercion “drugs that may induce lasting and permanent mental alteration and damage.” This appears to reflect a change from earlier doctrine, which prohibited the use of any drugs on prisoners unless required for medical purposes.47

Footnote 47 has more specific details:

47 See Stanley J. Glod and Lawrence J. Smith, Interrogation under the 1949 Prisoners of War Convention, 21 MIL. L. REV. 145, 153-54 (1963)(citing JAGW 1961 / 1157, 21 June 21, 1961).

In an opinion by The Judge Advocate General of the Army reviewing the employment of [“truth serum”] in the light of Article 17, it was noted that Article 17 justly and logically must be extended to protect the prisoner against any inquisitorial practice by his captors which would rob him of his free will. On this basis it was held that the use of truth serum was outlawed by Article 17. In addition, its use contravenes Article 18, which states in part : “. . . no prisoner of war may be subject to . . . . medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental, or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.” The opinion declared that “. . . the suggested use of a chemical “truth serum” during the questioning of prisoners of war would be in violation of the obligations of the United States under the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.” From this opinion it seems clear that any attempt to extract information from an unwilling prisoner of war by the use of chemicals, drugs, physiological or psychological devices, which impair or deprive the prisoner of his free will without being in his interest, such as a bonafide medical treatment, will be deemed a violation of Articles 13 and 17 of the Convention.

The 1987 version of FM 34-52 suggested that the use of any drugs for interrogation purposes amounted to mental coercion. FM 34-52 ch. 1 (1987).

Administering drugs for interrogation isn’t allowed under the conventions but administering drugs for medicinal reasons is a humanitarian action. Thus it’s easy to get around the Geneva Conventions if you want to interrogate prisoners with drugs, you merely have to claim the prisoners have mental conditions and administer the drugs for strictly medicinal reasons. As these prisoners are being held in a secret prison where no third-party doctor can come in and examine the prisoners any diagnosis of mental disorders is unverifiable. Isn’t that convenient?