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Saturday, August 12, 2006

By MARY FOSTER Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The American Psychological Association took a stand against torture Thursday but kept an existing policy saying that it's ethical for psychologists to assist in military interrogations.
Critics said the new policy, adopted at the group's convention, does not go far enough to keep its members from becoming embroiled in practices that could violate the principles of human rights.
"The ultimate question is, should psychologists participate in national security interrogations, and the answer is no," said Leonard Rubenstein, executive director of Physicians for Human Rights. "It's a question that other medical groups have addressed and the APA has not."
The APA adopted as policy long-standing international human rights standards for the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.
"The Association unequivocally condemns any involvement by psychologists in torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This APA policy applies to all psychologists in all settings," a statement released by the organization said.
An APA policy issued last year said that while psychologists should not get involved in torture or other degrading treatment, it was ethical for them to act as consultants to interrogation and information-gathering for national security purposes.
That stand troubled some members of the organization in light of reported abuses at Guantanamo Bay, in Iraq and elsewhere.
News reports have said that mental health specialists who are helping U.S. military interrogators have helped create coercive techniques, including sleep deprivation and playing on detainees' phobias, to extract information.
"There is no way for the APA to be involved in those interrogations without becoming complicit in torture," said Rubenstein, who was among the speakers at this week's convention.
The American Medical Association has adopted what many view as a stronger stand against physician involvement in prisoner interrogation, echoing a position held by the American Psychiatric Association, whose members are medical doctors. The U.S. military has indicated it will therefore favor using psychologists, who are not medical doctors and are not bound by the other groups' policies.