A Brief Chronology of PsySR's End Torture Action Committee Initiatives

Abu GhraibPsySR and its End Torture Action Committee have been extensively involved in anti-torture actions in the U.S., including key efforts to change the policies of the American Psychological Association in regard to psychologists' participation in national security settings such as Guantanamo Bay and CIA "black sites." A chronology of highlights from this PsySR campaign is provided here. This work now continues through PsySR's Program on Human Rights and Psychology.

PsySR Solicits Legal Opinion on Implementation of American Psychological Association Referendum

Last September APA voting members decisively approved the petition resolution stating that psychologists may not work in settings where “persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.” PsySR strongly endorsed a “Yes” vote on this important referendum (our “I Approve This Resolution” video is available HERE).

However, the APA Counsel issued a legal opinion that the referendum does not go into effect until the Council of Representatives (COR) meeting next August, thereby delaying implementation for almost a full year. The COR meets in Washington February 20-22 and one item on their agenda is likely to be a motion to make the referendum effective immediately.

In support of this position, PsySR's End Torture Action Committee has solicited a legal opinion from psychologist-attorney Bryant Welch, founder and former executive director of the APA Practice Directorate. In his legal opinion, available HERE, Dr. Welch has concluded that the APA Counsel is wrong -- that the referendum went into effect immediately upon passage.

We encourage all APA members to take action today by contacting your COR representatives (representing the APA divisions and state associations to which you belong) and urge them to vote in favor of making the referendum effective immediately.

APA Members Pass Historic Ban on Psychologist Participation in U.S. "War on Terror" Detention Facilities

The petition resolution stating that psychologists may not work in settings where “persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights” was approved by a vote of the American Psychological Association membership announced on September 17, 2008. The final vote tally was 8,792 voting in favor of the resolution; 6,157 voting against the resolution.

Psychologists for Social Responsibility strongly endorsed a “Yes” vote on this important referendum (see our “I Approve This Resolution” video), and we are very pleased with this outcome. PsySR believes that this vote is a significant step toward ending our complicity--as citizens, as psychologists or mental health professionals, and as members of APA--with the torture and severe abuse of prisoners in settings such as Guantanamo Bay and CIA "black sites." The APA itself states that this referendum result "represents a significant change in APA’s policy." We look forward to working with our colleagues to help implement this change.

Both the official APA press release on the referendum vote and a press release from the Coalition for An Ethical Psychology and Psychologists for an Ethical APA are available online, as is a copy of the letter from APA President Alan Kazdin to President Bush informing him of this significant change in APA policy.

PsySR Casebook for Interrogation Ethics

Under the leadership of PsySR members Jean Maria Arrigo and Stephen Soldz, PsySR received grant awards from the Open Society Institute and the Arca Foundation to develop a Psychology and Military/Political Intelligence Casebook for Interrogation Ethics. The Casebook will address a broad range of ethical issues surrounding psychologists’ involvement in interrogations, including: situational, financial, and career pressures on psychologists; interrogations in combat zones where coordination with local counterterrorist police is necessary; and discrediting of dissident personnel through clinical assessment of psychopathology. Pertinent historical cases, such as the CIA behavioral modification Project MKULTRA will also be explored, because procedures tend to persist in organizations. More information about this important project is available HERE, where regular updates will also appear.

California Legislature Passes Landmark Stop Torture Resolution

California SJR 19, "Torture by Licensed Healthcare Professionals", authored by State Senator Mark Ridley Thomas, was adopted on August 14, 2008. The resolution aims to prevent California health professionals from engaging in coercive interrogations of detainees at Guantánamo and other U.S. military prisons. More information on the legislation can be found HERE. PsySR End Torture Action Committee member Jean Maria Arrigo testified during the hearings. PsySR President Anthony Marsella provided a letter to the Senate Committee Chair, Mark Ridley-Thomas, which can be read HERE.

PsySR Issues Call to International Colleagues

In June 2008, PsySR's End Torture Action Committee issued a call for international colleagues to protest the APA's position on psychologists participating in U.S. interrogations of so-called "enemy combatants." The committee's full statement and more information is available HERE. In response to the appeal, the Nordic Committee of Psychologists' Associations has written a letter of support available HERE.

PsySR Members Participate in TASSC Vigil

Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition's (TASSC) 11th annual 24-hour vigil was held June 28-29, 2008 at Lafayette Park in front of the White House. Jill Flores, co-chair of PsySR’s End Torture Action Committee, spoke early Sunday morning, essentially delivering a “wake up” call to the White House. She insisted that the administration respect international law and treaties, repeal the Military Commissions Act of 2006, and stop the practice of kidnapping, secret detention, torture, and related abuses. Dr. Flores also shared good news about the efforts ethical psychologists have made to eliminate psychologists’ complicity in Bush regime abuses and to defend the role of psychologists as professional healers--and not as tormentors of the mind. You can lend your support to TASSC by signing their petition HERE.

Torture and the American Psyche: Blurring the Boundaries Between Healers and Interrogators

End Torture Action Committee co-chair Stephen Soldz helped organize and spoke at a forum in Boston on May 3, 2008 entitled "Torture and the American Psyche: Blurring the Boundaries Between Healers and Interrogators." Also speaking were Physicians for Human Rights President Leonard Rubenstein, former interogator in Iraq Eric Fair, and David Sloan-Rossiter, a Boston psychoanalyst. Video and audio of this event are available HERE.

PsySR Co-Sponsors Meeting of Psychologists and Former Military Interrogators

Published by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC, in December 2007, this Special Issue of the Journal of Peace Psychology is based on a seminar for psychologists and former military interrogators sponsored by PsySR and Georgetown University, with contributions from PsySR members Jean Maria Arrigo (Ed.), Clark McCauley, Fathalhi Moghaddam, and Richard Wagner (Ed.). A related press release from Georgetown University is available HERE.

PsySR Members Participate in Demonstration to Close Guantanamo

In January 2008, PsySR members Jill Flores and Kathleen Dockett and executive director Colleen Cordes participated in a demonstration in Washington, DC calling for the closure of Guantanamo. PsySR’s statement issued that day can be read HERE.

PsySR Member Gives Workshop at School of the Americas Watch

PsySRJill Flores, co-chair of PsySR’s End Torture Action Committee, provided a workshop at the 2007 Annual School of the Americas Watch (SOAW): "Addressing Complicity During Anti-Torture Advocacy.” SOAW is an independent organization that seeks to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas, under whatever name it is called, through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work. More information about the SOA torture manuals is available HERE.

Statement from the End Torture Action Committee

In light of evidence that U.S. prisons and detention centers for so-called "enemy combatants" misuse and abuse certain psychological principles to abet torture and other detainee abuse, PsySR's End Torture Action Committee has issued this statement.

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