Sunday, August 12, 2018

Psychologists Extend Guantanamo Anti-Torture Policy

Last week, the American Psychological Association voted to stand firm against torture and to continue their opposition to military psychologists' work with Guantanamo detainees.  Proponents of relaxing the ban argued that ready availability of military psychologists would be beneficial to the detainees who might seek counseling.  However, the policy was  initially implemented in 2015 when it was revealed the military psychologists had participated in aspects of detainee torture.  Now, with a President who has spoken approvingly of waterboarding,a CIA Director who personally oversaw torture during her previous posting at a black hole site, and a U.S. Supreme Court nominee who views torture favorably, the solid majority of the APA felt that it was not the right time to relax the prohibition.  Psychologists from independent agencies such as the Red Cross would be ethically permitted to offer counseling services at Guantanamo under the current APA policy, but the US has refused to give those professionals access to the facility. 

Juan Méndez, the former United Nations special rapporteur on torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, was among the human rights leaders who spoke out against a change in policy.  He said in a statement, “The current military restriction on access to independent psychologists at Guantánamo is itself a violation of international law. For the APA to weaken its ethical standards to accommodate this violation is to acquiesce in the continued violation of the rights of the detainees.” 

As recently as December 2017, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture relayed reports that torture was in continued use at Guantanamo.

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