Reaffirmation of the American Psychological Association Position Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and Its Application to Individuals Defined in the United States Code as “Enemy Combatants”

Resolution Adopted by APA on August 19, 2007.

Amended by APA on February 22, 2008.

Whereas the mission of the American Psychological Association is to advance psychology as a science and profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare through the establishment and maintenance of the highest standards of professional ethics and conduct of the members of the Association;

Whereas the American Psychological Association is an accredited non-governmental organization at the United Nations and so is committed to promote and protect human rights in accordance with the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

Whereas the American Psychological Association passed the 2006 Resolution Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, a comprehensive and foundational position applicable to all individuals, in all settings and in all contexts without exception;

Whereas in 2006, the American Psychological Association defined torture in accordance with Article l of the United Nations Declaration and Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,

[T]he term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted upon a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official [e.g., governmental, religious, political, organizational] capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to lawful sanctions [in accordance with both domestic and international law];

Whereas in 2006, the American Psychological Association defined the term "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" to mean treatment or punishment by a psychologist that, in accordance with the McCain Amendment, is of a kind that would be "prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, as defined in the United States Reservations, Declarations and Understandings to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment done at New York, December 10, 1984." Specifically, United States Reservation I.1 of the Reservations, Declarations and Understandings to the United Nations Convention Against Torture stating, "the term 'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment' means the cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States."ii

Be it resolved that the American Psychological Association reaffirms unequivocally the 2006 Resolution Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in its entirety in both substance and content (see Appendix A);

Be it resolved that the American Psychological Association affirms that there are no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether induced by a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, that may be invoked as a justification for torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, including the invocation of laws, regulations, or orders;

Be it resolved that the American Psychological Association unequivocally condemns torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, under any and all conditions, including detention and interrogations of both lawful and unlawful enemy combatants as defined by the US Military Commissions Act of 2006;

Be it resolved that the unequivocal condemnation includes an absolute prohibition against psychologists’ knowingly planning, designing, and assisting in the use of torture and any form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

Be it resolved that this unequivocal condemnation includes all techniques considered torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Geneva Conventions; the Principles of Medical Ethics Relevant to the Role of Health Personnel, Particularly Physicians, in the Protection of Prisoners and Detainees against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners: or the World Medical Association Declaration of Tokyo. An absolute prohibition against the following techniques therefore arises from, is understood in the context of, and is interpreted according to these texts: mock executions; water-boarding or any other form of simulated drowning or suffocation; sexual humiliation; rape; cultural or religious humiliation; exploitation of fears, phobias or psychopathology; induced hypothermia; the use of psychotropic drugs or mind-altering substances; hooding; forced nakedness; stress positions; the use of dogs to threaten or intimidate; physical assault including slapping or shaking; exposure to extreme heat or cold; threats of harm or death; isolation; sensory deprivation and over-stimulation; sleep deprivation; or the threatened use of any of the above techniques to an individual or to members of an individual’s family. Psychologists are absolutely prohibited from knowingly planning, designing, participating in or assisting in the use of all condemned techniques at any time and may not enlist others to employ these techniques in order to circumvent this resolution's prohibition;

Be it resolved that the American Psychological Association calls on the United States government--including Congress, the Department of Defense, and the Central Intelligence Agency--to prohibit the use of these methods in all interrogations and that the American Psychological Association shall inform relevant parties with the United States government that psychologists are prohibited from participating in such methods ;

Be it resolved that the American Psychological Association, in recognizing that torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment can result not only from the behavior of individuals, but also from the conditions of confinement, expresses grave concern over settings in which detainees are deprived of adequate protection of their human rights, affirms the prerogative of psychologists to refuse to work in such settings, and will explore ways to support psychologists who refuse to work in such settings or who refuse to obey orders that constitute torture;

Be it resolved that the American Psychological Association asserts that any APA member with knowledge that a psychologist, whether an APA member or non-member, has engaged in torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, including the specific behaviors listed above, has an ethical responsibility to abide by Ethical Standard 1.05, Reporting Ethical Violations, in the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (2002) and directs the Ethics Committee to take appropriate action based upon such information, and encourages psychologists who are not APA members also to adhere to Ethical Standard 1.05;

Be it resolved that the American Psychological Association commends those psychologists who have taken clear and unequivocal stands against torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, especially in the line of duty, and including stands against the specific behaviors (in lines 81 through 100) or conditions listed above; and that the American Psychological Association affirms the prerogative of psychologists under the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (2002) to disobey law, regulations or orders when they conflict with ethics ;

Be it resolved that the American Psychological Association asserts that all psychologists with information relevant to the use of any method of interrogation constituting torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment have an ethical responsibility to inform their superiors of such knowledge, to inform the relevant office of inspector generals when appropriate, and to cooperate fully with all oversight activities, including hearings by the United States Congress and all branches of the United States government, to examine the perpetration of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment against individuals in United States custody, for the purpose of ensuring that no individual in the custody of the United States is subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment;

Be it resolved that the APA Ethics Committee shall proceed forthwith in writing a casebook and commentary that shall set forth guidelines for psychologists that are consistent with international human rights instruments, as well as guidelines developed for health professionals, including but not limited to: Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions; The United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; The United Nations Principles of Medical Ethics Relevant to the Role of Health Personnel, particularly Physicians, in the Protection of Prisoners and Detainees against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and The World Medical Association Declaration of Tokyo: Guidelines for Physicians Concerning Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Relation to Detention and Imprisonment;

Be it resolved that the American Psychological Association, in order to protect against torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and in order to mitigate against the likelihood that unreliable and/or inaccurate information is entered into legal proceedings, calls upon United States legal systems to reject testimony that results from torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Defined as both unlawful enemy combatants and lawful enemy combatants as set forth in the U.S. Military Commissions Act of 2006 (Chapter 47A; Subchapter I: § 948a. Definitions)

(1) Unlawful enemy combatant —

A) The term "unlawful enemy combatant" means —
(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces); or (ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.
(B) Co-beliggerent — In this paragraph, the term "cobelligerent", with respect to the United States, means any State or armed force joining and directly engaged with the United States in hostilities or directly supporting hostilities against a common enemy.

(2) Lawful enemy combatant — The term "lawful enemy combatant" means a person who is—

(A) a member of the regular forces of a State party engaged in hostilities against the United States;

(B) a member of a militia, volunteer corps, or organized resistance movement belonging to a State party engaged in such hostilities, which are under responsible command, wear a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance, carry their arms openly, and abide by the law of war; or
(C) a member of a regular armed force who professes allegiance to a government engaged in such hostilities, but not recognized by the United States. 

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment XIV

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.