UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Urges American Psychological Association Act on Own Policies

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August 7, 2009, New York – The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) responded today to a letter made public from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture to the American Psychological Association (APA) stating that the conditions of the men held at Guantánamo violate international law and requesting that all psychologists be removed from the base and no longer  participate actively or tacitly in interrogations.

The letter came the day after CCR and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) requested the Canadian Government open a war crimes investigation into Dr. Larry James, a former high-ranking  psychologist at Guantánamo who is in Toronto for the annual APA convention.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, called attention to the fact that Guantanamo detainees are still arbitrarily detained, cruelly force-fed and isolated. He expressed his concern about the mental conditions of some of the long term detainees. The current conditions, combined with “the rough physical treatment and past practice of torture” led him to declare that the men and children detained in Guantanamo continue to be held “in violation of international law.”

Mr. Novak officially affirmed what CCR and its allies have been saying and the SASC report and OLC memos documented, that psychologists have been involved “in the design, supervision, implementation, and legitimization of a regime of physical and psychological torture at US military and intelligence facilities, including Guantánamo.”

Mr. Nowak urged the American Psychological Association to follow its own policies and requested the removal of all psychologists from Guantanamo and from all other detention sites where violations of human rights continue. The APA has seen internal strife and controversy these last years over the participation of some military and intelligence psychologists in torture and other abuses of detainees at U.S. detention facilities at Guantanamo and elsewhere.

Said Center for Constitutional Rights fellow Deborah Popowski, “We call on the APA to officially condemn the participation of its members in abusive interrogations in violation of their professional ethics. Psychologists were central to the design and implementation of abusive interrogation policies. When health professionals do harm, we all suffer.”

For more information on the involvement of health professionals in torture and abuse visit the Center for Constitutional Rights website www.whenhealersharm.org.  

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee” there. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the approximately 60 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org.


The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.


Last modified 

January 19, 2010