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APA rejects proposal expanding role of military psychologist to treat detainees in all settings

Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018 Contact: Kim I. Mills

(571) 216-5596 (cell)


SAN FRANCISCO – The American Psychological Association declined to adopt a resolution today that would have supported the role of military psychologists as providers of health care services to detainees in any national security setting. In rejecting this proposal, by a vote of 105-57 with 11 abstentions, APA’s governing Council of Representatives opted to retain the existing policy that restricts the role of military psychologists in detention sites that are in violation of the U.S. Constitution or international law. The individuals who proposed the measure said it was aimed at allowing military psychologists to provide needed health care to detainees without any restrictions as to the setting in which services are provided. This resolution would have made the role of psychologists consistent with the role of psychiatrists and other military health providers who may treat detainees at any site, including the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Many of those who opposed the measure indicated that they feared it would open the door to military psychologists becoming involved in detainee interrogations and risk compromising the human rights of detainees Before the vote on the actual resolution, the movers of that measure proposed to withdraw it and have the issue referred to a presidential task force for further study. After impassioned debate on both sides of the question, the council voted 95-76, with one abstention, against referral. “This was a very challenging decision since many critical professional issues and values were at stake,” said APA President Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD. “After much deliberation, the council decided that it was most important for the association to uphold the current policies that date back to 2009.”

APA’s council adopted a series of resolutions – in 2009, 2013 and 2015 – that were aimed at ensuring that psychologists did not in any way assist in so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques or contribute to the operation of detention settings where such techniques were used during the Bush administration’s “global war on terror.” The 2009 resolution (which was passed by a vote of APA members in 2008) stated 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.” That resolution allowed for military psychologists to provide treatment to military personnel in all settings and was incorporated in the subsequent policies.

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