Military Commissions

2/4 Nashiri Hearing #5: A Skirmish Over the Good Doctor Iacopino

By Benjamin Wittes
Monday, February 4, 2013, 6:18 PM

Break is over and Judge Pohl clearly hopes to resolve a group of motions before day’s end. The trouble is that these motions are all connected in a weird kind of string and he can’t resolve one without taking on a sequence of others. The absence from court issue took him to competency. And competency has taken him to AO140C, the defense motion to hear from torture victim expert, Vincent Iacopino.

Kammen declares that he wants the commission to order Iacopino’s testimony with respect to the 706 motion at least on the parameters of the evaluation and what the commission should do to make sure that the evaluation does Nashiri no harm.

Asks Judge Pohl, what does Iacopino add to the 706 motion? Isn’t it just his personal opinion about how the 706 board should be conducted?

Yes, Kammen acknowledges, and in this unique situation of a victim of torture on trial by the government who tortured him, that should be welcomed.

But aren’t questions of what the board should look into more appropriate for the people to consider who conduct the board, Judge Pohl asks? I’m not a doctor, after all.

The fundamental starting point, Kammen says, is to hear what Iacopino has to say. If you believe it has merit, it may affect your sense of the composition of the board, what it should look like, and what it should do. Another reason to hear from Dr. Iacopino is to help make sure to do no harm to a traumatized person who is being examined by other doctors.

Mattivi offers a brief response. First, he says, the defense argument about Dr. Iacopino is quite limited. There is only one paragraph about Dr. Iacopino---and that’s about the Istanbul Protocol. This is the fourth motion in which the defense has tried to bring the Istanbul Protocol into play. I respectfully request that Judge Pohl take a look at this document. It’s not relevant for the purposes for which it has been offered by defense. The document is about producing effective documentation so that perpetrators of torture can be held accountable. That is a completely different proceeding from what is happening here.

Judge Pohl asks Kammen to respond: what is unique about Dr. Iacopino? Why is he any different from the doctors likely to be appointed to the board---all of whom have sworn a hippocratic oath to do no harm too. Dr. Iacopino has examined a large number of people who have been tortured, here and elsewhere, Kammen says. He knows what will do harm in the future in the context of an examination. He knows how to avoid being a bull in a china shop with a patient who has been traumatized. But, Judge Pohl wants to know, is having Dr. Iacopino provide advice through me to the board an efficient way of conveying his expertise to other doctors? Responds Kammen, we’re asking you to hear from him and if you think it appropriate, craft an order influencing the way the 706 board conducts its business.