End Torture Action Committee

Abu Ghraib

Over the last 20 years, journalists, human rights workers, and torture survivors have traced U.S. complicity in the design and implementation of torture to the highest ranks of American government. Throughout this history, psychological principles have been abused to abet physical torture and to bring about the devastation of the human psyche.

As socially responsible psychologists, we recognize our professional activities must center on enhancing the quality of human existence while protecting the integrity of our science.

PsySR’s End Torture Action Committee resists those processes that have legitimized the worldwide use of torture and related abuses. We work to rollback institutional polices that perpetuate state sponsored torture. And we aim to restore the integrity of our profession to one that upholds international human rights and truly realizes our ethical commitment to “do no harm.”

Committee members’ research with U.S. military intelligence personnel reveals that the use of abusive techniques undermines the professional integrity of those involved and contributes to the erosion of this country's core commitments to individual rights and human dignity. There is no excuse for torture. Never is there a right way to do a wrong thing. Or, in the words of retired CIA covert operations officer Robert Chapman, "torture is a total, immoral waste." Read More »

PsySRJoin PsySR's End Torture Action Committee Today!

Interested PsySR members are encouraged to join the End Torture Action Committee. For more information about the committee’s projects, recent actions and how to join, please email Action Committee co-chairs Jill Flores (jillflores@centurytel.net) and Stephen Soldz (ssoldz@bgsp.edu) or contact PsySR's Central Office at info@psysr.org. You can join the committee’s listserv by sending an e-mail message with a blank subject and body to psysr-endtorture-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

PsySRRecent News and Committee Activities

PsySR's End Torture Action Committee is engaged in a broad range of projects on multiple fronts. A listing of important news and committee activities over the past several months is available HERE.

PsySR Poses Questions for APA about Harsh Interrogations

PsySR reiterates our call (see our previous statement HERE) for an independent national commission to examine the role of psychologists and the American Psychological Association in prisoner abuse. In this context we have issued a follow-up statement posing six key questions for the APA.

PsySR Urges Torture Commission to Examine Role of Psychologists and APA in Prisoner Abuse

PsySR has issued a statement condemning the prominent participation of psychologists in planning and carrying out the systematic abuse of U.S. detainees, as documented by the release of four previously classified Office of Legal Counsel memos and the extensive report of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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.

New PsySR Casebook and Workshop Website for Interrogation Ethics

Under the leadership of PsySR members Jean Maria Arrigo and Stephen Soldz, PsySR has received grant awards from the Open Society Institute and the Arca Foundation to develop a Psychology and Military/Political Intelligence Casebook for Interrogation Ethics. More information about this important project and the new Casebook Workshop Website is available HERE, where regular updates will also appear.

New Essay on APA and Abusive Interrogations by PsySR's Jean Maria Arrigo and Jancis Long

PsySR member Jean Maria Arrigo and president Jancis Long have co-authored an important essay entitled "APA Denunciation and Accommodation of Abusive Interrogations--A Lesson for World Psychology." The full-length article, published in the journal Psicologia: Teoria e Prática of Mackenzie University in São Paulo, Brazil, is available online HERE. An abbreviated version appears in the current newsletter of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims; the IRCT has graciously permitted PsySR to post the essay on our website HERE.

PsySR Members' Essay on APA and "Torture After Dark"

PsySR members Stephen Soldz, Brad Olson, Steve Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, and Bryant Welch have collaborated on a timely and powerful essay contending that a shameful "strategic helplessness" has characterized the American Psychological Association's response to reports of the use of psychological expertise and of psychologists' participation--both witting and unwitting--in U.S. government programs involving interrogation abuses and torture. Their essay can be read HERE.

Torture is for Amateurs

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.

North and South, the People Say: Close the School of the Americas!

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.

Links and Resources on Ending Torture

An alphabetical listing of organizations and resources focused on ending torture is available HERE.