Keilloh said he saw no injuries on Iraqi who died in British military custody after being tortured and beaten for 36 hours
A former army doctor found guilty of misconduct by medical watchdogs over the death of an Iraqi man who was tortured to death by British soldiers has been struck off the register.
Derek Keilloh was found to be unfit to continue to practise after a panel concluded that he acted in a dishonest way after the death of Baha Mousa in September 2003, and had failed to protect other men who were being mistreated at the same time.
The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, part of the General Medical Council (GMC), announced “with regret” on Friday that the only “appropriate sanction” was banning him from working as a doctor.
Mousa died after being forced into stress positions and beaten for 36 hours by soldiers of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment. A postmortem examination showed he had suffered 93 separate injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.
The panel recognised that Keilloh did not harm Mousa and did what he could to attempt to save his life, in a setting that was “highly charged, chaotic, tense and stressful”. But they ruled he must have seen the injuries and, as a doctor, had a duty to act.
The panel’s members found that Keilloh had engaged in “repeated dishonesty” and “misleading and dishonest” conduct, lying to army investigators about the injuries and, in sticking to his story, giving false evidence in subsequent courts martial and a public inquiry. The panel also said Keilloh, knowing of Mousa’s injuries and sudden death, did not do enough to protect his patients, the other detainees, from further mistreatment – breaking a “fundamental tenet” of the medical profession.
Dr Brian Alderman, the chairman of the panel, told him: “The panel has identified serious breaches of good medical practice and, given the gravity and nature of the extent and context of your dishonesty, it considers that your misconduct is fundamentally incompatible with continued registration.”
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: “We recognise that this has been a particularly challenging case with difficult and unusual circumstances, but patients and the public must be confident that the doctor who treats them is competent and trustworthy.”
Keilloh has 28 days to appeal.
Mousa, 26, a hotel receptionist and father of two young children, was arrested in September 2003 by British troops who believed, wrongly, that he was an insurgent involved in the killing of four of their colleagues the month before.
A public inquiry led by Sir William Gage concluded that Mousa’s death was caused by one final assault by his guards following 36 hours of mistreatment. The inquiry’s report strongly criticised the “corporate failure” by the Ministry of Defence and the “lack of moral courage to report abuse” within Preston-based 1 QLR.
It named 19 soldiers who assaulted Mousa and other detainees, and found that many others, including several officers and the regiment’s padre must have known what was happening.
Before the inquiry’s report was published, the MoD briefed journalists that Gage had found no evidence of systemic abuse by British forces holding and interrogating Iraqi prisoners. In fact, the judge concluded that “there is more than a hint that hooding, if not other conditioning practices, was more widespread than in just 1 QLR”, but said he was unable to investigate just how widespread.
While the inquiry was in progress, the Guardian disclosed that all three branches of the British military had continued to train interrogators in techniques that included threats, sensory deprivation and enforced nakedness, in apparent breach of the Geneva conventions.
Human rights groups and lawyers representing former prisoners are pushing for a public inquiry into British detention and interrogation practices in Iraq, which would trace responsibility for the abuse up the military chain of command and beyond, and shed light on the role played by military physicians.
Phil Shiner, the lawyer representing Mousa’s family, said after Keilloh was struck off that “the medical profession is well rid of such a man”. Indicating that legal action was being contemplated against other military physicians, he said: “All those UK doctors in Iraq who also saw signs of ill-treatment of Iraqi detainees but took no action had best start to instruct lawyers”.
About 135 of the Iraqis who complained that they suffered severe mistreatment under British detention say they were examined by a doctor before interrogation. Many have alleged they suffered injuries – including fractures – when first detained, but that the doctors paid no attention to their wounds, and instead checked their heart rate and breathing before questioning.
Video evidence of some of the interrogations conducted by a shadowy military intelligence unit called the Joint Forward Interrogation Team (JFIT) supports allegations that detainees were starved, deprived of sleep, subjected to sensory deprivation and threatened with execution. Former JFIT detainees and their lawyers believe the British military doctors were examining prisoners before interrogation to establish that they would survive the ordeal ahead.
In December 2010, two high court judges ruled that allegations that more than 100 detainees had suffered systemic abuse was supported by evidence that “each detainee was medically examined at various points by doctors and medical operatives under a duty to report ill-treatment”. When the court’s judgment was brought to the attention of the British Medical Association, the organisation insisted it was unable to take action.
Although the BMA has a protocol for intervention to deal with human rights abuses by doctors, which calls for credible complaints to be forwarded to Amnesty International, it insisted that complaints about the activities of British military doctors in Iraq did not fall within its remit. A spokesman added: “The BMA’s position is not based on whether BMA members have been involved.”
Since that court judgment was handed down, the number of Iraqi civilians claiming to have suffered severe mistreatment in British military custody is said to have risen to more than 1,100.
(www.guardian.co.uk / 21.12.2012)