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Monday, August 10, 2015

WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD say psychologists re. U.S. torture

Righting wrongs begins internally, motivated by a certain “something,” driven by certain some ones together

Writer, researcher, consultant, New York Psychologist, Teacher, Trauma Expert
Steven Reisner, PhD.

Dr. Reisner has consulted on the effects of war, exile, and torture, including training psychiatrists in Iraq to treat survivors of torture, training Kosovo-returned refugees to use theater and testimony to address the trauma of exile; consulted with clinical staff of the United Nations, helping train and supervise counselors responsible for the health and well-being of UN staff in many countries.

Reisner’s writings have appeared in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Psychoanalytic Dialogues, Studies in Gender and Psychoanalysis.  In New York City, he is Senior Faculty and Supervisor at the International Trauma Studies Program and on the faculties of the Department of Psychiatry and the Psychoanalytic Institute at the New York University Medical School and the Program in Clinical Psychology at Columbia University.

eisner spoke in interview on today’s Democracy Now program following the Friday near unanimous vote by the Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association (APA) “to adopt a new policy barring psychologists from participating in national security interrogations.” This is something he said that impressed me in his discussion with Amy Goodman.

“Enormous talents” are required “to change the world.”

When “talented people get together and are dedicated to good, to human rights, human welfare, to change—using our skills, our individual skills, for good—it may take 10 years … but … it is possible to make a significant change.

“…[R]ight now, even the Obama administration is on notice that the American Psychological Association is opposed to some of the policies that are still in existence.…: \

the interrogation policy of the Obama administration includes the Army Field Manual Appendix M. That appendix uses techniques or permits techniques that have been banned by the United Nations Committee Against Torture.

“…[T]he American Psychological Association is saying to the Obama administration that we consider that cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and none of our members can participate in any of those activities;

it’s time for you to change that Army Field Manual; it’s time for the United States to follow the American Psychological Association and ban any technique, any condition that is considered still to be torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. 

 “We want to lead the way….”

Psychoanalyst, clinical psychologist, professor, anti-war activist
Dr. Stephen Soldz
Director of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis, outspoken critic of the U.S. government’s use of psychological torture in its conduct of the War in Iraq and Global War on Terror.

In August 2007, Dr. Soldz publicly challenged the American Psychological Association to ban involvement by professional psychologists in the interrogation of ‘enemy combatant’ prisoners held by the CIA and Defense Department. In November 2007, with Julian Assange, he coauthored an article published via WikiLeaks on psychological torture at Guantanamo Bay.

Dr. Soldz is a prolific researcher and writer in the field of psychology and personality as well as in the areas purely and interfacing with war and peace and international affairs, human rights, torture. In addition to publishing the “Iraq Occupation and Resistance Report” website, he has written for the Znet website on which he questions the accuracy in reporting the number of Iraqi civilian deaths since the March 2003 invasion. He has written op-ed columns for a variety of sources.

n the Democracy Now program today Stephen Soldz impressed me with part of his personal statement as to why he helped lead the drive to end psychologists’ participation in U.S. torture programs.

He said he refused to be a person “…who does not stand up when I have the opportunity.  I can’t live with myself if that’s the case,” he said.

I’ve always admired those who did. This was my time to do it. And I knew that if a few of us did not keep it up, this policy would keep on. 
[I] couldn’t live with that.

United Nations CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Torture Convention’) was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1984 (resolution 39/46) and entered into force on June 26, 1987, after it had been ratified by 20 States. The Torture Convention was the result of many years’ work, initiated soon after the adoption of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Torture Declaration’) by the General Assembly on December 9, 1975 (resolution 3452 (XXX)). http://legal.un.org/avl/ha/catcidtp/catcidtp.html

Resolution introduction
The States Parties to this Convention AGAINST TORTURE and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,

  • Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
  • Recognizing that those rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person,
  • Considering the obligation of States under the Charter, in particular Article 55, to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms,
  • Having regard to article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which provide that no one may be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,
  • Having regard also to the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted by the General Assembly on 9 December 1975 (resolution 3452 (XXX)),
  • Desiring to make more effective the struggle against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment throughout the world, …

Sources and notes

Reisner biographical note, http://www.cja.org/article.php?id=798

Soldz biographical note, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Soldz

Democracy Now program segment: “No More Torture: World’s Largest Group of Psychologists Bans Role in National Security Interrogations,” Monday, August 10, 2015, http://www.democracynow.org/2015/8/10/no_more_torture_world_s_largest

“By a nearly unanimous vote, the American Psychological Association’s Council of Representatives voted Friday to adopt a new policy barring psychologists from participating in national security interrogations. The resolution also puts the APA on the side of international law by barring psychologists from working at Guantánamo, CIA black sites and other settings deemed illegal under the Geneva Conventions or the U.N. Convention Against Torture, unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights. The vote came at the APA’s first convention since the release of a report confirming the APA leadership actively colluded with the Pentagon and the CIA torture programs. The sole dissenter was retired Col. Larry James, former top Army intelligence psychologist at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.” The program’s guests included  “two of the leading dissident psychologists who have been pushing the APA to reverse its stance on interrogations for nearly a decade: Steven Reisner and Stephen Soldz, founding members of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology.”

United Nations CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Articles excerpted where the word “torture is specifically mentioned in the Convention
States Parties to this Convention AGAINST TORTURE and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment …Have agreed as follows:

Part I - Article 1

1.     For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.

Article 2

1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Article 3
 1. No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture

2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

Article 4

1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture

2. Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.

Article 10

1. Each State Party shall ensure that education and information regarding the prohibition against torture are fully included in the training of law enforcement personnel, civil or military, medical personnel, public officials and other persons who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment. 

2. Each State Party shall include this prohibition in the rules or instructions issued in regard to the duties and functions of any such persons.

Article 11

Each State Party shall keep under systematic review interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices as well as arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment in any territory under its jurisdiction, with a view to preventing any cases of torture.

Article 12

Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committee in any territory under its jurisdiction.

Article 13

Each State Party shall ensure that any individual who alleges he has been subjected to torture in any territory under its jurisdiction has the right to complain to and to have his case promptly and impartially examined its competent authorities. Steps shall be taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or any evidence given.

Article 14

1. Each State Party shall ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible. In the event of the death of the victim as a result of an act of torture, his dependents shall be entitled to compensation. 

2. Nothing in this article shall affect any right of the victim or other person to compensation which may exist under national law. 

Article 15

Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.

Article 17

1. There shall be established a Committee against Torture (hereinafter referred to as the Committee) which shall carry out the functions hereinafter provided. The Committee shall consist of 10 experts of high moral standing and recognized competence in the field of human rights, who shall serve in their personal capacity. The experts shall be elected by the States Parties, consideration being given to equitable geographical distribution and to the usefulness of the participation of some persons having legal experience. 

2. The members of the Committee shall be elected by secret ballot from a list of persons nominated by States Parties. Each State Party may nominate one person from among its own nationals. States Parties shall bear in mind the usefulness of nominating persons who are also members of the Human Rights Committee established under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and are willing to serve on the Committee against Torture

Article 20
Coalition For an Ethical Psychology
Trudy Bond
Stephen Soldz
Roy Eidelson
Stephen Reisner
Brad Olson
Jean Maria Arrigo

1.     If the Committee receives reliable information which appears to it to contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practised in the territory of a State Party, the Committee shall invite that State Party to co-operate in the examination of the information and to this end to submit observations with regard to the information concerned.  …

United Nations CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE  and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, http://www.hrweb.org/legal/cat.html

“The COALITION FOR AN ETHICAL PSYCHOLOGY is dedicated to putting psychology on a firm ethical foundation in support of social justice and human rights. The Coalition has been in the lead of efforts to remove psychologists from torture and abusive interrogations.” http://ethicalpsychology.org/resources/reclaiming-our-profession.php


A lifelong American writer and writer/activist (former academic and staffer with the U.S. government in Washington), Dr. Carolyn LaDelle Bennett is credentialed in education and print journalism and public affairs (PhD, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; MA, The American University, Washington, DC). Her work concerns itself with news and current affairs, historical contexts, and ideas particularly related to acts and consequences of U.S. foreign relations, geopolitics, human rights, war and peace, and violence and nonviolence. Dr. Bennett is an internationalist and nonpartisan progressive personally concerned with society and the common good. An educator at heart, her career began with the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Since then, she has authored several books and numerous current-affairs articles; her latest book: UNCONSCIONABLE: How The World Sees Us: World News, Alternative Views, Commentary on U.S. Foreign Relations; most thoughts, articles, edited work are posted at Bennett’s Study: http://todaysinsightnews.blogspot.com/ and on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/carolynladelle.bennett. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/08UNCONSCIONABLE/prweb12131656.htm http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-000757788/UNCONSCIONABLE.aspx Her books are also available at independent bookstores in New York State: Lift Bridge in Brockport; Sundance in Geneseo; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center in Buffalo; Burlingham Books in Perry; The Bookworm in East Aurora

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