PsySR press release on psychologists and interrogations

14 08 2006

The American Psychological Association Council of Representatives met at APA to deal with the APA Executive Council’s approval of psychologists being involved in interrogations and, as a consequence, torture. Click here to read the press release from APA on the resolution.
Here’s the press release by PsySR (an independent organization of psychologist activists) regarding the resolution, and how it does not go far enough, soon enough. I’m not sure how we can advocate setting aside “normal procedures” for stopping the participation any more than the president of APA did when he established the policy endorsing it in the first place… The issue goes both ways… Anyway…


For Immediate Release
Contact: Anne Anderson (202) 262-0989


PsySR to APA: Don’t Stop Now — Declare Emergency
“No Participation” Policy in National Security Interrogations

Psychologists for Social Responsibility urges the American Psychological Association not to mistake the start it made this week for the kind of conclusive action still needed to prevent psychologists from enmeshing themselves in psychological abuse at U.S.-operated detention centers. Given the urgency of ending the potential for abuse immediately, PsySR calls on the APA to set aside its normal procedures and immediately declare an emergency “No Participation” policy for psychologists in national security or military interrogations at this time.
PsySR welcomes the new, stronger resolution passed by the APA Council of Representatives this week that ties APA’s ethics code to international human rights standards regarding torture and abuse. But that resolution is just the first step — not the end of the matter. PsySR urges the Council to take emergency action Sunday to set a “No Participation” policy while APA deliberates on how to implement the resolution.

“We encourage APA to demonstrate its commitment to this new policy by placing an immediate moratorium on psychologists’ participation in national security or military interrogations,” said Richard Wagner, president of PsySR. “The secrecy surrounding the interrogations makes it very difficult — possibly impossible — for psychologists to be able to effectively monitor and prevent torture, abuse, and other forms of cruel or degrading treatment.”

Michael Wessells, a member of both PsySR’s Steering Committee and former member of APA’s Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) added: “The passage of this resolution is an important step forward because it establishes international human rights standards as the foundation of APA ethics guidance for working on issues of national security. However, the statement is only a first step and, by itself, is seriously incomplete.”

“Human rights standards become actionable only when coupled with clear operational guidance and effective systems of monitoring, reporting, and action. These do not exist at present. The APA needs to provide on an urgent basis the specific operational guidance needed to define what psychologists can and cannot do in national security work and whether it is ethically appropriate for psychologists to work at or support detainment sites such as Guantanamo Bay that operate outside the spirit and letter of the law established by the Geneva Conventions and other human rights standards. Also, the APA should denounce the systematic use of specifically psychological methods of interrogation and take steps to insure that psychologists have the support and protections needed to be effective whistleblowers. Most important, without these additional elements, psychologists remain at serious risk of violating human rights, and psychology as a profession will not have fulfilled its obligation to protecting human rights.

We appreciate the hard work and commitment of all of our colleagues who have helped to prepare and pass the new Resolution this week and urge the Council to call a halt to participation by psychologists in any way in national security or military interrogations at this time.

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