August 20, 2007

American Psychological Association Calls on U.S. Government to Prohibit the Use of Unethical Interrogation Techniques

Association labels specific techniques as torture; bans such acts as water boarding, use of dogs to intimidate, and sexual humiliation

SAN FRANCISCO--The Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association (APA) has approved a resolution prohibiting specific techniques sometimes used in interrogations and calling on the U.S. government to ban their use.

The resolution, passed at the APA's annual convention in San Francisco, unequivocally condemns and strictly prohibits psychologists from direct or indirect participation in a list of 19 unethical interrogation techniques including: mock execution; water-boarding or any other form of simulated drowning or suffocation; sexual humiliation; rape; cultural or religious humiliation; exploitation of phobias or psychopathology; induced hypothermia; and the use of psychotropic drugs or mind-altering substances for the purpose of eliciting information. In addition, the following acts were banned for the purpose of eliciting information in an interrogations process: 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; and isolation and/or sleep deprivation used in a manner that represents significant pain or suffering or in a manner that a reasonable person would judge to cause lasting harm; or the threatened use of any of the above techniques to the individual or to members of the individual's family.

Yesterday's vote further articulates that the identified interrogation techniques are strictly out-of-bounds for psychologists, according to Stephen Behnke, JD, PhD, Director of the APA Ethics Office. "We have had a long-standing position that torture and other forms of inhuman and degrading treatment are unethical. The strength of this new resolution is that it adds specificity to that prohibition," Behnke said.

The new resolution calls upon the United States Government, including the Congress, Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency, to prohibit the use of the identified techniques. The resolution additionally noted the likelihood that torture and other forms of cruel treatment lead to unreliable and/or inaccurate information. For that reason, it calls upon U.S. legal systems to reject testimony that results from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

This latest resolution builds on a 2006 Council of Representatives resolution reasserting the organization's absolute opposition to all forms of torture and abuse, regardless of circumstance and linking the Association's position to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention.

APA policy condemns and absolutely prohibits psychologists from planning, designing, assisting in or participating in any activities including interrogations which involve the use of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Resolution: 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"

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 148,000 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.