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APA Condemns CIA Enhanced Interrogation Tactics; PHR Urges Bush Administration to Abolish These Techniques

For Immediate Release

The American Psychological Association's (APA) "unequivocal condemnation" of enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA such as water-boarding, mock execution, exploitation of phobias, exposure to extremes of heat and cold reinforces the urgency of abolishing the use of these methods in all intelligence-gathering activities conducted by the US government, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said today. At its annual meeting, held in San Francisco, the APA urged that the executive branch and Congress prohibit the use of 20 specific tactics used in connection with interrogation and prohibits psychologists from participating in them, directly or indirectly. The action by the APA, which has long been engaged in supporting national security activities, is a recognition that these brutal methods cause devastating harm to people's mental and physical health. A recent analysis by PHR and Human Rights First demonstrates that these and other brutal techniques are war crimes.

"The action by the American Psychological Association reflects what clinical experience and scientific study have long shown: that these techniques destroy people, amount to torture, and must never, ever be used," stated Leonard S. Rubenstein, President of PHR. "The Bush Administration must immediately follow the APA's resolution by expressly abolishing the use of these techniques by the CIA and all other agents of the US government."

The APA also determined that psychologists should have no role in planning, designing or assisting in these techniques, and urged tribunals to reject testimony elicited by torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It recognized, too, that "conditions of confinement" as well as interrogation methods can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The resolution affirms that psychologists may not participate, directly or indirectly, in any activities that amount to or facilitate torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, even when these activities are authorized by law or regulation.

"The resolution brings to an end any excuse or justification for psychologists to provide interrogation support in any facility where torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is taking place," said Rubenstein. "The public record irrefutably demonstrates that psychologists have been essential in designing and implementing the Bush Administration's regime of psychological torture."

The APA expressed "grave concern" about the situations where detainees are deprived of their human rights, but the resolution stops short of prohibiting psychologists from participating in activities other than clinical treatment in settings where human rights violations are taking place. PHR urged the APA to take this step as soon as possible.

"It is an illusion to believe that psychologists can act ethically in situations, particularly in an interrogation support capacity, where such severe violations of human rights are taking place," said Rubenstein. "At Guantanamo and elsewhere, detainees deprived of due process and subject to indefinite detention experience cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as a consequence of the terms of their detention."

The list of techniques the APA condemned as part of the context and process of interrogation includes:

  • Mock executions
  • Water boarding
  • Other forms of simulated drowning or suffocation
  • Sexual humiliation
  • Rape
  • Cultural humiliation
  • Religious humiliation
  • Exploitation of phobias or psychopathology
  • Induced hypothermia
  • Use of psychotropic drugs or use of other mind-altering substances for the purposes of eliciting information
  • Hooding
  • Forced nakedness
  • Stress positions
  • Use of dogs to threaten or intimidate
  • Physical assault including slapping and shaking
  • Exposure to extremes of heat and cold
  • Isolation where a reasonable person would judge would cause lasting harm
  • Sensory deprivation where a reasonable person would judge would cause lasting harm
  • Sleep deprivation where a reasonable person would judge would cause lasting harm
  • Threatened use of these techniques or other harm to the detainee
  • Threatened use of these techniques or other harm to the detainee's family

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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