An Iraqi doctor was “part of the machinery” of Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime and was “complicit in acts of torture”, a medical tribunal has found.
Mohammed Al-Byati carried out medical treatments on camp detainees in Iraq between December 1992 and March 1994, a fitness to practise panel held by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) has found.
The panel has heard evidence that the doctor visited camps and prisons and, whilst administering treatment, knew that some prisoners he treated had sustained injuries as a result of torture, and it was likely that the prisoners would be tortured again.
It also heard that as a consequence of Dr Al-Byati’s involvement, he was “complicit in acts of torture”.
The panel has found that all the allegations against Dr Al-Byati, 47, have been proved and will now consider whether the doctor, who has been working in the UK since January 2000, should be struck off the medical register.
Dr Al-Byati, who is suspended pending the outcome of the tribunal, appeared before the panel on Tuesday to deny the charges.
He said he had been a junior doctor and was “terrified” of what would happen to him and his family if he did not do as he was told and said he did not know the people he was treating had been tortured.
But Charles Garside QC, prosecuting on behalf of the General Medical Council (GMC) said the doctor, a Sunni Muslim, was part of a “well known family” which supported the Saddam regime.
Mr Garside said he knew that his place of work within the Al-Khadymia compound of the Iraqi Intelligence Agency was a place where “horrific atrocities were committed”.
In a statement of its findings on the facts of the case, the panel said: “It has already determined that Dr Al-Byati knew that some prisoners he treated had sustained injuries as a result of torture, and that after some of his visits and treatment it was likely that they would be tortured again.
“It noted that Dr Al-Byati attended for work on a daily basis. He undertook the duties he was ordered to carry out. The access to the clinic was guarded and he was not permitted to leave without an escort.
“The Panel has already determined that some of the people being seen by Dr Al-Byati were being given treatment so that they might be tortured further.
“The Panel accepted the GMC case that this was neither Dr Al-Byati’s wish nor his intention, and it accepted that he was ‘part of the machinery’.
“In all the circumstances, the Panel determined that by his actions Dr Al-Byati was complicit in acts of torture.”
Addressing the issue of whether the doctor knew the people he was treating had been tortured and would be tortured again, the tribunal said: “The panel asked itself the following question: why would people who had been tortured and injured be taken to see a medical officer?
“In answering this question, the panel noted that it had found that Dr Al-Byati knew of the atrocities being committed. The panel observed that when he was required to see people with widespread injuries, he was only permitted to give minimal treatment.
“It was clear that the intention was not to give long-term treatment. In the circumstances, the only logical conclusion that the panel could draw was that they were being given treatment so that they might be tortured further.”
It is not alleged that Dr Al-Byati witnessed any acts of torture first hand and there was “no criticism” of the doctor’s clinical performance in this country.
After the allegations were read out to Dr Al-Byati on Tuesday, he said: “I deny everything.”
The doctor, who was representing himself, added: “I am completely innocent of these charges.”
Mr Garside told the panel that Dr Al-Byati was born in Iraq and was the son of a colonel in the Iraqi army who was also a member of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party.
The panel was told that Dr Al-Byati left Iraq permanently in December 1995 when he went first to Jordan, then to Tunisia, Libya and Malta before settling in the UK in January 2000.
He has since held various posts in UK hospitals, the panel heard.
Mr Garside said Dr Al-Byati’s work permit was due to run out on February 4, 2007 and that on February 27 he made an application to claim asylum.
During this claim he told the UK Border Agency about his work in Iraq.
The doctor also told the Border Agency that he was required to certify the deaths of those who had been hanged.
Mr Garside alleged Dr Al-Byati was “part of Saddam Hussein’s machinery” which tortured groups, particularly Shia Muslims and Kurds, who Saddam Hussein believed were “enemies of the state”.
“On the face of the facts alleged Dr Al-Byati has committed crimes against humanity,” Mr Garside said.
After hearing the allegations the doctor said: “The case is based on evidence from the Home Office but if you read the whole thing from the Home Office they have no evidence at all.
“They have no evidence. That’s why I am waiting for a chance to appeal the whole decision in a court of law.”
Dr Al-Byati told the panel that he had been “hurt” by the suggestion he was guilty of war crimes.
He said he had been in training as a doctor and on compulsory military service in Iraq at the time and that he and his family were “terrified” of the Saddam regime.
At one point he banged the table as he tried to control his anger defending his father’s name, saying he was a “decent, honest man” adding: “We did not have any advantage by my father being a Colonel because he retired in 1980.”
He said his time working in the clinic at the Iraqi Intelligence Centre involved him checking on “simple things”.
He said: “I don’t know how that would be complicit in a war crime. It’s so hurting (sic) to hear these words.”
Dr Al-Byati said: “All this is about the place. If I am a cleaner, am I complicit? I can’t understand this. It’s hurting me. I am sorry. I am angry.”
“We lived in agony since he (Saddam) took leadership in our country and I am very sorry for all the people who lived in that period, including me,” the doctor said.
The panel was told that the detainees were not allowed to speak to him.
He said: “Nobody told us they had been tortured and I swear to God on that.”
He said he simply wanted to do his job and finish his military service and get back to his civilian role without offending the regime.
The doctor said his family, including a son born in the UK nine years ago and two older daughters, had been granted asylum in the UK for five years.
Dr Al-Byati claimed that some of his interviews with the border agency had been wrongly translated and misinterpreted.
Asked how a Kurdish patient in the UK might feel being treated by him, Dr Al-Byati responded: “All my friends are Kurds.”
He also said he was married to a Shia Muslim and that Saddam’s violence stretched to everyone of all faiths in Iraq.
The tribunal is expected to conclude this week.