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For Immediate Release

PHR Calls for Investigation of American Psychological Association's Ties to Pentagon

Cambridge, Mass - 04/24/2009

Cambridge, MA—Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is calling for an independent, outside investigation of the American Psychological Association (APA). This call comes in the wake of a Washington Post report alleging that the APA's 2005 ethical guidelines for psychologist involvement in national security interrogations were developed in coordination with the Pentagon. PHR also calls on the Obama Administration to investigate whether any current or former federal employees exerted influence over the APA's Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS).

"These serious allegations require an independent investigation to determine whether APA leadership engaged in unethical conduct," stated Steven Reisner, PhD, PHR Advisor for Psychological Ethics. "The American public deserves to know if there were inappropriate contacts or conflicts of interest between APA officials and the Pentagon."

PHR has been a longstanding and outspoken critic of the APA's PENS policy governing psychologist involvement in interrogations, calling for a "bright line" prohibition against health professional participation in interrogations. Though the APA membership passed a 2008 referendum banning psychologists from facilities that violate US and international human rights law, PHR believes that the PENS policy must be immediately revoked.

"In 2005 PHR first called for the APA's ethics policy on interrogations to be rescinded," added Dr. Reisner. "Now is the time for the APA to replace those flawed guidelines with standards that put a psychologist's ethical obligations to human rights principles ahead of following orders."

The recently released Senate Armed Services Committee report detailing detainee abuse by the Department of Defense confirms that psychologists rationalized, designed, supervised, and implemented the Bush Administration's torture program.

"The Senate Armed Services Committee report confirms that psychologists were central to the Bush Administration's use of torture," said Nathaniel Raymond, Director of PHR's Campaign Against Torture. "In the context of these revelations, the American public needs to know why a supposedly independent ethics policy was written by some of the very personnel allegedly implicated in detainee abuse."

Since 2005, PHR has documented the systematic use of psychological torture by the US during its interrogations of detainees at Guantánamo, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and elsewhere in its groundbreaking reports Break Them Down, Leave No Marks, and Broken Laws, Broken Lives. The organization has repeatedly called for an end to the use of the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) tactics by US personnel, the dismantling of the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCT), and a full Congressional investigation of the use of psychological torture by the US Government, among other recommendations. Additionally, PHR has worked to mobilize the health professional community, particularly the professional associations, to adopt strong ethical prohibitions against direct participation in interrogations.

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

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