2008 APA Petition Resolution Ballot

The APA Bylaws state that upon petition of 1 percent of the membership, a request for a mail vote of the members of the association on any subject will be held as long as the petition is not an attempt to amend the Bylaws and is not inconsistent with the association's Certificate of Incorporation or the Bylaws. Council shall take such action as may be necessary to implement the result of any such vote.

In early June 2008, APA received such a petition with the required number of signatures of members (full members in good standing) concerning the issue of whether psychologists may work in certain settings that involve the detention of individuals.

In September, this measure passed by a vote of 8,792 to 6,157. Shortly thereafter, APA President Alan E. Kazdin announced the formation of an advisory group concerning implementation of the resolution. Dr. Kazdin’s appointments were made after an open nominations process.

The charge to the advisory group is to make suggestions and give input to the APA Council of Representatives on possible actions regarding the implementation of the petition resolution.


We the undersigned APA members in good standing, pursuant to article IV.5 of the APA bylaws, do hereby petition that the following motion be submitted to APA members for their approval or disapproval, by referendum, with all urgency:

Whereas torture is an abhorrent practice in every way contrary to the APA's stated mission of advancing psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting human welfare.

Whereas the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Mental Health and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture have determined that treatment equivalent to torture has been taking place at the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. [1]

Whereas this torture took place in the context of interrogations under the direction and supervision of Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs) that included psychologists. [2, 3]

Whereas the Council of Europe has determined that persons held in CIA black sites are subject to interrogation techniques that are also equivalent to torture [4], and because psychologists helped develop abusive interrogation techniques used at these sites. [3, 5]

Whereas the International Committee of the Red Cross determined in 2003 that the conditions in the US detention facility in Guantánamo Bay are themselves tantamount to torture [6], and therefore by their presence psychologists are playing a role in maintaining these conditions.

Be it resolved 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[7].


[1] United Nations Commission on Human Rights. (2006). Situation of detainees at Guantánamo Bay. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/16_02_06_un_guantanamo.pdf The full title of the 'Special Rapporteur on Mental Health' is the 'Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health'.

[2] Miles, S. (2007). Medical ethics and the interrogation of Guantanamo 063. The American Journal of Bioethics, 7(4), 5. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from http://ajobonline.com/journal/j_articles.php?aid=1140

[3] Office of the Inspector General, Department of Defense: Review of DoD-Directed Investigations of Detainee Abuse. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/dod/abuse.pdf

[4] Council of Europe Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (2007). Secret detentions and illegal transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe member states: second report. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from http//assembly.coe.int//Main.asp?link=http://assembly.coe.int/Documents/WorkingDocs/Doc07/edoc 11302.htm

[5] Eban, K. (2007). Rorschach and Awe. Vanity Fair. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from http://www. vanityfair.com/ politics/features/2007/07/torture200707

[6] Lewis, N. A. (2004, November 30). Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/30/politics/30gitmo.html? oref=login&adxnnl=1&oref=login&adxnnlx=1101831750-

[7] It is understood that military clinical psychologists would still be available to provide treatment for military personnel.