PHR Salutes APA Policy Banning Psychologists from Illegal U.S. Interrogations

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Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) CEO Frank Donaghue congratulates American Psychological Association (APA) President Alan E. Kazdan, PhD, who wrote to President George W. Bush on October 2 to inform him of a significant change in APA policy that limits the roles of psychologists at illegal U.S. detention facilities, such as Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and CIA black sites overseas, where systematic torture has occurred.

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While today is a proud day for the APA and its membership, the APA must now act to permanently prohibit direct participation by psychologists in interrogations and to ensure those psychologists who engaged in abuse and torture are held to account

"APA's announcement today is a historic victory for medical ethics and human rights," said Physicians for Human Rights CEO Frank Donaghue. "PHR salutes the APA for telling President Bush that psychologists can no longer serve at illegal US facilities that violate the Constitution and international human rights standards. This dramatic policy reversal represents a massive transformation by an organization that has until now encouraged members to assist interrogations of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and CIA black sites overseas."

The association's policy reversal was driven by a first-of-its-kind referendum, pushed by a reform movement among its members, with PHR's active support. PHR has been campaigning since 2005 for the APA to end psychologists' participation in U.S. national security interrogations. Government and press reports have confirmed that military and intelligence psychologists were central to the design, implementation, and supervision of the Bush administration's regime of psychological and physical torture.

"The Pentagon and the CIA must now abide by the APA's new policy and immediately cease employing psychologists as part of detainee interrogations," stated Donaghue. "The Bush Administration's interrogation policies have inflicted grievous damage to the core principles of medical ethics and the rule of law. The APA's statement today is a watershed moment in the fight to stop psychologists from being used to cause harm and return them to their appropriate role as healers."

The Department of Defense is expected this month to review the operational guidance for BSCTs (Behavioral Science Consultation Teams), which use mental health professionals in detainee interrogations--an application which violates international standards of health professional ethics. PHR has led the public and behind-the-scenes effort to shut down the BSCT program.

"While today is a proud day for the APA and its membership, the APA must now act to permanently prohibit direct participation by psychologists in interrogations and to ensure those psychologists who engaged in abuse and torture are held to account," said Donaghue. "The APA has taken a tremendous step forward but has not yet reached the ethical standards of the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, organizations which have banned direct participation by physicians in all interrogations. Also, the APA has not yet specified what rights abuses would render a detention facility illegal under its new policy."

To download the APA's letter to President George W. Bush, dated October 2, 2008, visit: http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/torture/apa-letter-to-president-bush.pdf

For information on PHR's Campaign Against Torture, visit: http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/torture/

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