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To torture or not to torture: Psychologists debate

Press Esc | August 18, 2007
Vidura Panditaratne

US psychologists gathered at their annual convention are debating this weekend whether or not it is ethical for them to take part in interrogation programs that involve torture carried out by military and intelligence agencies.

A series of sessions titled Ethics and Interrogations feature prominently at this year's American Psychological Association (APA) convention in San Francisco after it emerged that psychologists played a pivotal role in devising Central Intelligence Agency's "enhanced interrogation techniques", which include methods considered "cruel and inhuman" by human rights groups.

A landmark report by leading rights groups Human Rights First and Physicians for Human Rights found that officials who authorize or use "enhanced" interrogation techniques risk violating US law and could face criminal prosecution, even though President George W. Bush official sancationed these methods under an Executive Order issued last month.

The APA members will discuss such topics as "What are Psychologists doing in US Military Detention Centers?", "What are the Effects of Psychological Torture and Abuse?", and "What Ethical Dilemmas do Psychologists Working in Detention Centers Face?".

The mental health professionals will also hold a Town Hall Meeting to determine how they should move forward.

The American Civil Liberties Unioncalled on the APA to prohibit its members from participating in coercive interrogations.

" We have found troubling evidence of the collusion of medical psychologists in the development and implementation of procedures intended to inflict psychological harm on prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and other facilities," Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union said. "We hope that the APA will take into account that the participation of psychologists in cruel, inhuman, and degrading interrogation of detainees is not only unethical but illegal, and may subject APA members to legal liability or even prosecution."

 

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