War crimes and civilian life

GP Dr Derek Keilloh has been struck off over allegations that he failed to report the torture of Iraqi Baha Mousa. An army medic at the time, early in his medical career, he treated Mousa after he was assaulted by British troops who mistakenly believed that he was an insurgent involved in the killing of one of their colleagues. He was not involved in the assault and there seems to be no claims that he did not fulfill his duty to treat the victim. The only allegation, which is disputed by him, is that he should have been aware that the man had been illegally assaulted and should have reported it.

Whilst it is very likely that Keilloh erred in not reporting the abuse and deserves to punished, it is ridiculous that a popular and dedicated GP is being struck off from working in a civilian capacity when what he is alleged to have done wrong involves a naive failing in a military context early in his career. At a time when the NHS is constantly under fire for its failings, preventing him from working is punishing his patients for a crime he did not commit. Even on the basis that his failure to report abuse then might indicate that he would not report abuse committed by NHS staff in his current role doesn’t hold water, given the way in which the NHS attempts to prevent whistleblowing.

It is entirely right that those who are involved in torture and – let’s be blunt – murder, especially against innocent civilians, should be punished, and it is fair that those who fail to blow the whistle on such behaviour should be punished in order to prevent future coverups, but such punishments must be proportionate to both their involvement and their effects on others. Striking off Dr Keilloh does more harm than good, especially as only a single soldier has actually been convicted for the actual torture. By all means punish the doctor, but do not prevent him from practising and doing some good with his life.

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