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Sunday, August 9, 2015

What, exactly, does yesterday’s APA resolution prohibit?

By Marty Lederman
Just Security
Originally posted August 8, 2015

By an overwhelming vote of 156-1 (with seven abstentions and one recusal)–so lopsided that it stunned even its proponents–the American Psychological Association’s Council of Representatives yesterday approved a resolution that the APA describes as “prohibit[ing] psychologists from participating in national security interrogations.”

What does Approved Resolution No. 23B do, exactly?  As I read it, it does three principal things, in ascending order of importance:

1.  It reaffirms an existing APA ethical prohibition that psychologists “may not engage directly or indirectly in any act of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” a prohibition that “applies to all persons (including foreign detainees) wherever they may be held”; and it “clarifies” that “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment” (CIDTP) should be understood not (or not only) as that term is defined in the U.S. Senate’s understandings of, and reservations to, the Convention Against Torture, but instead in accord with the broadest understanding of CIDTP adopted by any international legal body at the relevant time:  the definition “continues to evolve with international legal understandings of this term.”


3.  Finally, and most significantly, the Resolution establishes a new prohibition that “psychologists shall not conduct, supervise, be in the presence of, or otherwise assist any national security interrogations for any military or intelligence entities, including private contractors working on their behalf, nor advise on conditions of confinement insofar as these might facilitate such an interrogation.”

The entire article is here.

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