Jan 20 2011

Psychologists and Lawyers Facing Professional and International Legal Action for Their Participation in the United States Torture Program

The United Nations Convention Against Torture  define torture as:“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.”

Mental health professionals, especially psychologists, have been grappling with the realization that licensed psychologists were involved in the design and implementation of the US torture program.

The New York Supreme Court is hearing the case against Psychologist John Leso brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) on behalf of Steven Reisner, a New York psychologist.   Reisner has been an outspoken opponent of the use of torture and specifically of the American Psychological Association’s  support of psychologist’s role in the use of torture.

The New York Office of Professional Standards declined to investigate Reisner’s complaint about Leso’s involvement in the torture program. Reisner has appealed to the Supreme Court and a decision should be made shortly regarding this important matter.

My guess? Leso will not face any charges.
Regarding the Bush administration lawyers who wrote legal briefs condoning torture, Amy Goodman, a writer for Rabble.CA, states:

“Judge Baltasar Garzon of the Spanish National Court is moving ahead with an investigation of “The Bush Six,” which includes Yoo and Bybee, as well as former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; William J. Haynes II, then general counsel to the Department of Defense; Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy; and David Addington, the chief of staff under former Vice President Dick Cheney. These six could possibly face criminal charges in Spain for enabling torture at Guantanamo and elsewhere.”

Psychologists, lawyers and most professional groups have ethical standards, which require them to “not do harm” and respect the United States and International laws against torture.

Most of us are probably unaware of these particular advocacy efforts. We have probably heard about the use of torture…and probably don’t want to really deal with it.

The problem for those who want to ignore it and have it go away is it’s an extremely important issue for those who believe in the dignity of all human beings.

Torture, no matter how you cut it, is a violation which impacts all of us, whether we acknowledge it or not.

The Geneva Conventions make it very clear about the humane treatment of prisoners:

“…They shall, at all times, be humanely treated, and shall be protected, especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.”

By any accounting, the United States and the officials in charge failed in their responsibility to live up to both the letter and spirit of these international principals.

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