US psychologist group bars participation in military interrogations

[JURIST] The American Psychological Association (APA) [official website] announced Wednesday that it had adopted a measure [petition text; APA press release] prohibiting members from participating in interrogations of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] and other military prisons where suspects have allegedly been tortured. The resolution, approved by a vote of 8,792 to 6,157 members, represents a reversal in position by the group, which last year rejected a similar ban [JURIST report]. The measure states:

Whereas torture is an abhorrent practice in every way contrary to the APA's stated mission of advancing psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting human welfare.

Whereas the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Mental Health and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture have determined that treatment equivalent to torture has been taking place at the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Whereas this torture took place in the context of interrogations under the direction and supervision of Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs) that included psychologists....

Be it resolved that psychologists may not work in settings where persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law or the US Constitution, unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.
The resolution will take effect by the APA's next annual meeting, in August 2009. AP has more. The New York Sun has additional coverage.

Last year, APA members passed a resolution stating that the group opposed the use of torture and specifying which practices it found particularly inhumane, including mock executions, sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation. The American Medical Association [organization website] in 2006 adopted [JURIST report] ethical guidelines [text; press release] restricting physician participation in interrogations, following the approval of a similar policy [text; press release] by the American Psychiatric Association [organization website]. According to a report [PDF text] by the US Defense Department [official website], psychologists have been involved in military interrogations [JURIST news archive] since 2002. Mental health specialists were also reportedly involved in prisoner abuse scandals at Guantanamo and at Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive] in Iraq.


 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.