A follow-up investigation on the quality of medical documents from examinations of Basque incommunicado detainees: the role of the medical doctors and national and international authorities in the prevention of ill-treatment and torture.Forensic Sci Int. 2008 Nov 20; 182(1-3):57-65.FS
According to the United Nations and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), torture and ill-treatment continues to be a problem during incommunicado detentions in Spain. CPT has visited Spain and published recommendations for improvements of preventive medical examinations. However, no scientific assessment of the impact of such recommendations exists. The objectives of this study were to assess the quality of documents from preventive medical examinations and the prevalence of alleged ill-treatment and compare findings with similar data from a previous study. Documents issued by state employed doctors describing medical examination of Basques held incommunicado during 2000-2005 were reviewed. The analysis covered allegations of ill-treatment and existence and quality of information essential for medical appraisal of allegations of ill-treatment. The material was collected by a non-governmental organisation. Of 425 documents concerning 118 persons, 85% had no formal structure and the format recommended by CPT was never used. None of 127 documents, concerning 70 persons with allegations of ill-treatment had an overall conclusion on the likelihood of ill-treatment. Twelve to 68% of necessary data were totally missing, and only 13-38% of existing information was sufficient. There was significant variation between the reporting of individual doctors, but in general the quality was unacceptable, although somewhat higher than in the previous study. The prevalence of allegations of ill-treatment was as high as previously. There were more reports of psychological ill-treatment and procedures of forced physical exhaustion, but fewer reports of beatings. In conclusion, there was no indication that the conditions of incommunicado detainees have improved substantially over the past 15 years and the standard of medical reporting was unacceptable. The Spanish authorities should give clear objectives and guidelines for medical examinations of detainees. An independent forensic specialist with the overall academic responsibility for preventive medical examinations of detainees should be employed to supervise state employed doctors. The present article shows the necessity for harmonization of medical practice in documentation of torture.