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Friday, February 28, 2014

Dr. Steven Miles creates leading website on "doctors who torture"

Untitled 2 miles.pngOver 7 years ago, Dr. Miles created an online archive of 60,000 pages of government documents describing the medical system in "War on Terror" prisons, published at the online Human Rights library, hosted by the University of Minnesota. "Those documents were made available by the government through the Freedom of Information Act, but the government did not want the public to be able to analyze them," says Dr. Miles. "My idea was to connect the information for each case such as autopsy reports and death certificates in order to tell the larger story. The documents are useless unless you connect them. As a physician, I can read some of the documents better than historians could. Consider death certificates for example. I can see what is on the document and what is missing." The archive has over 1.5 million visitors- mainly researchers, attorneys who are engaged in prison work, and academics who study the system.

Dr. Steven Miles has a lifelong endeavor to use his medical credentials and expertise to address some of the most challenging human rights issues of our time. He is a Professor of Medicine and Bioethics at the University of Minnesota. He is also on the Board of the Center for Victims of Torture in the United States.
The archive's success prompted Dr. Miles to create his own website doctorswhotorture.com/, which was intended to increase holding doctors accountable, legally and ethically, and to prove that it is possible to hold governments accountable. The website archives countries' records and work on torture and aims to provoke governments to change their policies regarding the use of torture.
The establishment of the website required a lot of time and effort. "Hundreds of websites were searched in different languages, which required translations before documentation," explained Dr. Miles.
The goal of those websites is to "help document, excavate and rewrite the history of the medical complicity with torture. The websites also had an impact on changing the Defense Department's policy and on attorneys who are handling the defense of prisoners. They showed the new way to create an online archive for Human Rights purposes, and are a model on how to do it for other countries like Guatemala, Argentina and many more," said Dr. Miles.
The message Dr. Miles would like to send to the public is that "victims and people who are affected by torture are among us--in our backgrounds, family, schools--but those victims are invisible. The silence surrounding them is negating the need to deal with the impacts of torture on individual and communal levels. Addressing the impacts of torture provides not only a form of treatment to the victims, but also acts as a preventative measure. Thus, in order to prevent torture, societies need to start talking about it because making the topic a taboo doesn't stop it or make it disappear."
Dr. Miles is the author of four books, more than twenty book chapters, and over 200 medical articles on medical ethics, torture, human rights, end-of-life care and other related topics.
Written by Salma Taleb