Human Rights and Civil Liberties Groups Urge APA Not to Reverse Human Rights and Ethical Protections for Guantanamo Detainees | Center for Victims of Torture

Human Rights and Civil Liberties Groups Urge APA Not to Reverse Human Rights and Ethical Protections for Guantanamo Detainees

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. & WASHINGTON — On August 3rd, the Center for Victims of TortureTM (CVT) sent a letter to the Board of Directors and Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association (APA) expressing serious concern at the prospect of the organization authorizing the return of military psychologists to the Guantanamo Bay prison to resume treating detainees. Late yesterday, a coalition of human rights and civil liberties groups joined CVT’s call:

We, the undersigned human rights and civil liberties organizations, are deeply concerned that the American Psychological Association (APA) is considering rolling back critical protections instituted to safeguard psychologists from complicity in torture and abuse and to facilitate ethical and independent mental health care for detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention center. We urge the APA not to take that step.

The groups, including CVT, explain that psychologists’ deep complicity in torture—while working on behalf of the CIA or the military—has “adversely affected the provision of medical and mental health care [at Guantanamo], and undermined the ability of government psychologists to form therapeutic relationships based on trust.” The letter continues:

Current APA policy, as updated in 2015, recognizes this problem and admirably puts the onus on the government to enable access to independent psychologists, who are better positioned to provide detainees ethical and independent care. The proposed reversal of this policy—allowing military and other government psychologists to resume treating detainees (New Business Item 35B)—turns a blind eye to history, undermines detainee welfare, and puts psychologists back at risk of being asked or ordered to participate in human rights abuses.

Read the full letter here.


The Center for Victims of Torture is a nonprofit organization headquartered in St. Paul, MN, with offices in Atlanta, GA, and Washington, D.C.; and healing initiatives in Africa and the Middle East. Visit

Jenni Bowring-McDonough
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