ESTSS statement about intention to use torture as ...

The European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ESTSS) joins in with calls made by human rights organisations in the United States and around the World this week to urge the Trump administration to renounce in the clearest terms any intention to use torture as a tool of US Government policy.

Torture is not only illegal, inhumane and immoral. It also has potentially catastrophic consequences for the public security its use is supposed to safeguard.

As a professional body, representing trauma professionals who work with victims of torture, it is our duty to point out the following:

— Many of the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”, discussed in public by President Trump and members of his administration, such as water-boarding, are merely torture by another name.  Moreover, psychological “no touch” techniques, such as prolonged sensory deprivation, are particularly destructive of the human psyche and leave lasting damage that can continue to affect victims for decades.

— Research on the impact of traumatic stress on memory and cognition show torture is not an effective method for obtaining reliable information. Contrary to the plot lines of popular TV shows, “enhanced interrogation” is more likely to result in false confessions and allegations that lead to the detention of innocent suspects than intelligence that is of any use in protecting the public.

— History shows that governments which institutionalise torture lose the moral capacity to exert genuine leadership. Rather than defuse threats, such practices fuel violent opposition and undermine the security and wellbeing of their own citizens.

The American Psychological Association last week condemned any move to reintroduce the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” programme. Mindful of the documented role that a number of professional psychologists played in facilitating torture during the Bush administration, we would like to draw the attention of all trauma professionals to the UKPTS (UK Psychological Trauma Society) Position and Guidance Paper on Torture, Coercive Interrogations and Cruel and Degrading Treatment. The paper states that:

The UKPTS condemn all forms of physical or psychological techniques used in the exercise of torture, coercive interrogation and other prohibited treatment. Its members shall not attend, assist, cooperate or comply with, or condone the use of torture or coercive interrogation, or use their clinical and/or medical skills and expertise, either actively or passively, to facilitate the use of torture or coercive interrogation. The UKPTS unequivocally condemn the use of the strategy of 'extraordinary rendition' and so called “enhanced interrogation” techniques.

And it adds:

The UKPTS recognises its ethical obligation to alert its members to the risks they face when working in the field of interrogation, torture and other forms of prohibited treatment may be manifest or hidden. The UKPTS therefore urges its members to be cognisant of such considerations and to evaluate them fully before agreeing to undertake work that might expose them to such risks.

The ESTSS fully endorses these positions and is currently reviewing guidance for its own members.

ESTSS - Board of Directors (2016-2017)