August 6, 2009

APA votes to prevent ‘Nuremberg defense’

The American Psychological Association voted at a meeting in Toronto to have its ethics committee draft language to prevent the Nuremberg defense.

The APA council of representatives voted to direct the committee to propose language by fall that will appropriately and effectively amend Ethical Standard 1.02 in response to concerns about a possible following orders or following the law defense to violations of human rights based on the current language of its Ethics Code, APA officials said in a statement.

The APA has longstanding policy against any involvement by psychologists in acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the statement said. There are no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether induced by a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, that may be invoked as a justification for torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, including the invocation of laws, regulations, or orders.

The APA ethics committee has said no defense for torture will ever be acceptable within the APA ethics adjudication process.

After a public comment period, the council is expected to act on the proposed revision to Ethical Standard 1.02 at its February meeting.