August 10, 2006

American Psychological Association Reaffirms Unequivocal Position against Torture and Abuse

APA council of representatives underscores duty of psychologists to stop incidents of torture as well as report violations

NEW ORLEANS - The Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association (APA) has approved a resolution reaffirming the organization's absolute opposition to all forms of torture and abuse, regardless of the circumstance. The resolution furthermore affirmed United Nations human rights documents and conventions as the basis for APA policy.

The Association unequivocally condemns any involvement by psychologists in torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This APA policy applies to all psychologists in all settings.

The resolution, approved on August 9, 2006, further underscored the duty of all psychologists to intervene to stop acts of torture or abuse as well as the ethical obligation of all psychologists to report such behavior to appropriate authorities.

"Our intention is to empower and encourage members to do everything they can to prevent violations of basic human rights - at Guantanamo Bay or anywhere else they may occur," said Gerald P. Koocher, PhD, President of the American Psychological Association. "It is not enough for us to express outrage or to codify acceptable practices. As psychologists, we must use every means at our disposal to prevent abuse and other forms of cruel or degrading treatment.

"Today's resolution directly ties APA's position on torture to the United Nation's Convention Against Torture and reaffirms the Association's commitment to protecting basic human rights," added Dr. Koocher.

After the Council of Representatives approved the resolution, Dr. Koocher personally urged the delegates to report violations, so that the APA can act to investigate the incidents and, if appropriate, discipline the violators.

Among its provisions, The American Psychological Association 2006 Resolution Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment:

  • Included a specific definition of "torture" derived from the United Nations Convention Against Torture
  • Reaffirmed the APA's support for the McCain Amendment.
In two separate but related activities, Dr. Olivia Morehead-Slaughter, Chair of the APA Ethics Committee, told the Council that instances of reported abuse such as sexual humiliation or water-boarding would clearly constitute a violation of the APA Ethics Code.

Also presenting to Council on the issue of torture and abuse, and the role of psychologists in interrogations were Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, the Army's surgeon general, and Dr. Steven Reisner, a psychologist and senior faculty member at Columbia University's International Trauma Studies Program.

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.