Science & Tech

SPH professor finds Taliban inmates dying, in need of care

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Researcher calls for U.S. intervention, aid after investigative trip

Jennifer Leaning is a professor in the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Population and International Health. She is also one of Physicians for Human Rights’ founders. In January 2002, Leaning traveled to Afghanistan to investigate the conditions under which Taliban prisoners were being held. While the investigators found no evidence that the prisoner were being tortured or intentionally mistreated, they also found that the crowded conditions and lack of resources were killing them just as surely as a firing squad. Leaning said she believes the U.S. government shares responsibility for the care of these men. As a partner in their capture in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, and as at least temporary administrators of the prison itself, the United States has a legal obligation under international law to provide adequate food, shelter, and medical care, Leaning said. Leaning and her co-investigators outlined their findings in a report and at a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 28, 2002. They also met with officials in the State Department, the Pentagon, and congressional staff members.