Saturday, March 02, 2013

Judicial amputations in Sudan

According to news and NGO reports, a judicial cross amputation recently took place in Sudan. The cross amputation, in this case, was the amputation of a man's right hand and left foot. The man was charged with armed robbery, and this was part of his punishment. But amputation is usually a medical procedure, so it is suspected that health professionals and institutions were involved, more specifically doctors at Khartoum's Al-Ribat University Hospital.

Human rights groups and representative of medical associations are protesting this form of punishment as barbaric, and the involvement of medical practitioners in judicial amputation as reprehensible. Amnesty International calls the practice a clear violation of prohibitions against cruel and inhumane punishment. A spokesman for the World Medical Association said judicial amputation is contrary to their guidelines regarding physician participation in torture and ill-treatment of persons. Similarly, the British Medical Association issued a statement about the impermissibility of using clinical skills for non-clinical, judicial purposes.

The involvement of medical professionals in anti-Hippocratic activities -- in order to promote the morally questionable purposes of a state -- is fairly widespread. Judicial amputation is just a particularly vivid form. Less vivid, but no less questionable, is the involvement of physicians in capital punishment or 'harsh interrogations.' Anti-Hippocratic activities elsewhere may be regarded as a form of justice or justified by national interests closer to home.

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